Julie S.'s Reviews > The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma

The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma by Trenton Lee Stewart
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's review
Dec 04, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: own, read-in-2011, whimsical, favorites, smart-kids-and-teens, childrens-and-middle-grade, funny

** spoiler alert ** Do I need to say that I love this series? If I do, then I will say it now: I am completely charmed and intriqued by The Mysterious Benedict Society. I am excited to own the boxed set of the first three books after "strongly hinting" that I would like to get it for Christmas.

I loved the clever title. It referenced two things. First, it referenced the prisoner's dilemma test that Mr Benedict arranged for the children to go through at the opening of the book. Instead of prison time, the kids had kitchen duty issues to think about. Second, the kids were imprisoned by Mr Curtain, and their dilemma was how to escape with endangering Mr Benedict and themselves.

The things that I enjoyed about the previous two books are still there: the likable characters with unique quirks and talents, nefarious plots from Mr Curtain, puzzles/riddles, secret meetings, spying, adventure, the lovely illustrations, and humor. I was not disappointed in any way.

In this book, Mr Benedict wass trying to use the Whisperer for good, but the government, influenced by Mr Curtain, was trying to take it away to use for evil. He stole the Whisperer and his deadly Ten Men kidnapped the kids. The kids tried to break free as Mr Benedict and others (such as Milligan, Moocho, etc) come to rescue them. After some epic struggles, things are somewhat resolved. The Whisperer malfunctioned (according to Mr Benedict's plan), and Mr Curtain failed. S.Q. Pedalian saved Mr Curtain from being squished to death from the crane, but Mr Curtain ended up in jail, where he will be visited by S.Q. daily and by Mr Benedict weekly. Constance is officially adopted, and she uses her mental powers to heal his narcolepsy. Sticky's family is moving across the street, but Kate and Reynie's family will stay in the big house with Mr. Benedict. This way, the Mysterious Benedict Society can stay together.

The characters, though they were still the same characters that I knew and loved, were more fleshed-out and had some personal growth. Constance gained more control of her mental powers, Sticky tried to fiddle with his glasses less by getting contacts, Kate worked on being less impulsive, and Reynie realized that he was not always responsible for everyone.

One of my favorite scenes had to do with Number Two's real name. Of course, Number Two is her code name that she goes by since she does not like her real name. Constance asks her what her name is, and Number Two does not tell. However, Constance reads her mind and tells everyone that her name is Pencilla. This was clever. I've thought since the first book that Number Two was like a pencil. She has yellowish skin with red hair like a pencil and its eraser. She is tall and thin like a pencil. Her code name is Number Two as in the most popular type of pencil. So it was quite funny that her real name was Pencilla (page 374).

I also really enjoyed the poem that Constance wrote to test if her narcolepsy cure worked. It was very funny to make Mr Benedict laugh. If his extreme laughter did not induce sleep like it usually did, then he was cured. He laughed hysterically. I laughed, too, when I read her poem "Why I Find Green Plaid So Annoying, And What I Intend to Do About It: An Explanation of My Heroic Acts."

But the icing on the cake was the code (Plaidisbad) in the back of the book. Using this code on the website revealed that Stewart is going to release a book in 2012 about Mr Benedict as a kid.

*On a completely unrelated note, I sometimes think about how awesome it would if characters from one book series knew characters from a different series. In this case, it would be great if these characters knew the Baudelaires in A Series of Unfortunate Events. This is even further reinforced by the fact that in The Reptile Room, there is a minor character who wears a plaid suit much like Mr Benedict's. To explain Sunny's confusion at seeing him, Snicket commented, "It is always confusing why anyone would choose to wear a plaid suit" (page 183). In a world where books collide... the common mockery of plaid suits is the connection.

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