With the snarkiness of A Series of Unfortunate Events and the mind-bending conundrums of Chasing Vermeer, The Mysterious Benedict Society is a group a four gifted children brought together by an enigmatic classified ad that asks:
Are you a gifted child looking for special opportunities?
When the parentless kids respond to the ad, they are put through a series of tricky tests and puzzles that qualify them as the perfect team the narcoleptic Mr. Benedict needs to infiltrate the secretive school L.I.V.E. (the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened). This school, Mr. Benedict believes, is somehow behind the subliminal messages he has discovered are being broadcast as part of the evil Mr. Curtain's mind-control plot to (mwah ha ha ha) take over the world!
Reynie Muldoon is an excellent lead character -- geeky intelligent but likable in his role as the group's unofficial leader. The never-forgets-anything-he's-ever-read George "Sticky" Washington, the get-out-of-any-situation Kate and the perpetually grumpy Constance Contraire (SUCH a great name) round out the group. The four friends don't always get along, in fact, it takes them a while to really discover their friendship, but ultimately the bond is cut deep as they work together to solve the mystery and, in the process, become something none of them have ever had -- a real family.
I listened to the audiobook and while I loved Del Roy's homey voice, it held a strange quality I can't put my finger on. I don't know if I think he was the right voice for the story, but it was certainly warm and friendly. It felt a little too old for the characters, and their dialogue was very adult, so that didn't help.
The story itself is intriguing and filled with twists, turns and puzzlers that kids will love figuring out. There were a couple of spots where the pacing slowed too much for me, but in the end I thoroughly enjoyed it. So much so that I went right to my public library website and reserved a copy of the sequel: The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey.
This one gets an enthusiastic four bookmarks! Let me know if you've read it and what you thought!