I read The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner’s Dilemma by Trenton Lee Stewart, ISBN 978-0-316-04552-0. I found it on the New Bookshelf at El Cerrito Library as I was shelving books. I called my daughter and asked if she would like me to nab it for her. So, we read it in tandem. This is the first one I have read in the series. I admit I do not find the children as intriguing as the children in the Harry Potter books or the Lemony Snickett books. This book reminds me more of Series of Unfortunate Events. It is not as much of a page turner as the Harry Potter books.
Update: I have finished the book. Even though it sometimes put me to sleep as bedtime reading (I guess that could be regarded as a good thing…and I don’t have narcolepsy like Mr. Benedict), I did feel the book was growing on me as I got further on. The children showed great independence from adults, while working together well as a team, and having the welfare of the adults in their lives as a priority. Kate bravely fights Mc Cracken on the roof of a prison building to rescue her dad Mc Millan who is hanging off the roof by his fingers. Then Mc Millan throws himself off the building, suffering broken bones, to save her and the other children a bit later. The ideas of mind reading and telepathy are used in interesting ways to try to solve problems and effect rescues. The idea of the Whisperer, a machine that can erase people’s memories was creepy, even for an adult…or maybe more so for an adult than a tween as we have more memories to erase! I can see where these books would be appealing to children who like mysteries, quirky characters and situations, and a mix of fantasy in a more realistic setting.
I tentatively placed this book in the quest genre, but maybe it is more a magical adventure story. In it the children and their parents journey to a new life by being sequestered in Mr. Benedict’s house in a sort of witness protection program. Their quest is to recover the Whisperer which could be used for great evil by a villain seeking to control the American government. They go through the requisite series of trials and tribulations. Kate’s red bucket could be considered an amulet of sorts. It seems sort of like a magic bucket because she can pull such an assortment of useful stuff out of it that is perfect for the bind the children find themselves in. Mr. Benedict is a sort of wise man who helps them (even as he suffers from his narcolepsy). The story is the classic struggle of good vs. evil where good wins out in the end.
ISBN 978-0-316-04552-0 hardback.