When Did You See Her Last?
London, Egmont, 2013, 277p
I love a good mystery, and no author keeps you guessing quiet as much as Lemony Snickett - even the author's real identity was a mystery for some time. This new series, subtly linked to The Series of Unfortunate Events, tells of the adolescence of Snickett himself as part of the V.F.D.
In the second book of All the Wrong Questions, Snickett asks "When Did You Last See Her?", as he investigates a missing persons case. However, as is typical of Snickett's adventures, nothing is as simple as it seems, and he soon suspects he is up against his old nemesis, Hangfire. With the help of his trusted friends, Pip and Squeek, the taxi drivers, and Moxie Mallahan, local journalist, he searches for answers to the many unanswered questions haunting Stain'd-by-the-Sea.
I have huge respect for the way Daniel Handler writes. It is so intelligent and witty, full of the most unexpected images. My favourite similie in this novel is when Snickett predicts, "Moxie will be as mad as a paper cut". And Handler continues to use that high level vocabulary, using Snickett's patronising associate, S. Theodora Markson to explain any complicated language.
The library is a recurring setting in this series of novels. Managed by Dashiell Qwerty, it seems to be a constant mess of information chaos. But there is a brilliant scene I intend to use in my library lessons to teach about research. Here, Snickett goes to the library to investigate the chemistry that was engrossing the missing person, in the hope it might reveal something about where she has gone. He finds himself in the science section, but he finds the task very time-consuming and laborious:
"There wasn't a book called Laudanum or a book called Invisible Ink or a book called The Case of Cleo Knight's Disappearance Solved in a Book So Lemony Snickett Doesn't Have to Do It Himself."Snickett finds some information on chemistry, but concludes, "Cleo Knight would die peacefully in her sleep at age 102, surrounded by her great-grandchildren, before this book would help him with the case."
Navigating a library is an important skill to have but a difficult skill to teach. As Snickett notes, there is never a perfect book containing all the information you need. But, with enough thinking and investigating, Snickett starts to ask the right questions and, through some rather inconventional means, solves this unusual mystery.