© Trenton Lee Stewart, illustration © Diana Sudyka.
This third book about four plucky and intelligent children, Reynie, Kate, Sticky and Constance, who have been brought together to solve mysteries and fight evil by their benefactor, Mr. Benedict, begins with everyone together in Mr. Benedict’s house, after having successfully rescued him in the second book, but in a tense and uneasy state of siege. The evil Mr. Curtain, Benedict’s brother, is still on the loose, and the threat of his attack is ever present, despite all kinds of guards and safety procedures. The children and their families are constantly aware of their danger, and cannot relax as long as Curtain is out there, scheming to destroy them. They are, in a way, prisoners in their own home, which grates on everyone. And before long Curtain’s allies start moving in on them, inexorably, causing the four children to form plots and plans of escape when the inevitable happens. Unfortunately, their plans don’t go well against the vast resources at Curtain’s command.
Though the first two books didn’t promote it as such, this third one completes a trilogy, as many dangling plot threads are resolved, character origins are revealed, and the children discover that their intelligence is not enough to win over their enemies, they need friendship and teamwork, as well as the help of their adult allies this time. Everyone is tested to their limits in this exciting adventure, and most of the characters have to fail before they can come back to triumph. While the plot is intricate, the characters propel this book more than the other two, and it makes a fine finale to at least this part of the Benedict Society story. Don’t know if there’ll be more, but if not, the three existing books make good, fun reading. Either the three books together, or the first one as an introduction, would make fine holiday gifts for young readers who enjoy mysteries, solving puzzles, and action-filled adventures. Recommended.