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The Vile Village By Lemony Snicket

Illustrated by Brett Helquist
HarperCollins,, 2001
$9.95 hardcover
262 pages

Dust jacket image used courtesy of Henry Holt and Company. Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire are orphans with miserable luck. Ever since their parents died in a fire they have been looking for a new home. Meanwhile, wicked Count Olaf follows them everywhere they go, scheming to get his hands on the Baudelaire fortune which Violet will inherit when she turns eighteen.

In this seventh installment of "A Series of Unfortunate Events," the Baudelaire children find themselves in the town of V.F.D. Thousands of rules -- such as no mechanical devices allowed, and do not hurt the crows -- govern daily life here. The only kind person is the handyman Hector, who lets them use his secret library and inventing laboratory.

Count Olaf eventually shows up in disguise, of course, but not before the V.F.D. police arrest someone who looks like Olaf but is not. Short poems, which may hold clues to the whereabouts of the kidnapped Quagmire triplets, appear each morning beneath the Nevermore Tree. And the Baudelaires themselves are falsely accused of murder. What else could possibly go wrong?

"A Series of Unfortunate Events" started off strong and funny with The Bad Beginning andThe Reptile Room, but by books four and five had nearly stalled in repetition and its own ridiculousness. But the end of The Austere Academy, with the mystery of V.F.D. and the kidnapping of the Quagmires, turned the series in a new direction.

Since then the plots have continued to thicken in strange and intriguing ways. Hints reveal the background story, of dead Beatrice and the author's own peculiar circumstances, to be connected to the Baudelaires' fate; this time, for instance, we are presented with the arrival and immediate death of Jacques Snicket, "brother of a man who --"

There are other signs, too, of the series shaking off stagnation. For the first time Mr. Poe does not return at book's end. Klaus turns thirteen. And Sunny, whose speech has slowly become more intelligible, albeit in clever and subtle ways, also has a surprise in store for her siblings.

Will there truly never be a happy ending for the Baudelaires? I can't imagine where Snicket plans to take the series, or how long he can pull it off. As amusing as his premise is, Snicket has already come close once to boringly repetitive. For now, at least, things are still fun, and should be for books to come.

Visit the Lemony Snicket website.

A Series of Unfortunate Events:

The Bad Beginning. HarperCollins, 1999
The Reptile Room. HarperCollins, 1999
The Wide Window. HarperCollins, 2000
The Miserable Mill. HarperCollins, 2000
The Austere Academy. HarperCollins, 2000
The Ersatz Elevator. HarperCollins, 2001
The Vile Village. HarperCollins, 2001
The Hostile Hospital. Forthcoming.


Dust jacket image used courtesy of Henry Holt and Company.

Reviewed by Wendy Morris. © 2001 by Wendy Morris

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