Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey by Trenton Lee Stewart

In the second adventure of the Mysterious Benedict Society, Reynie, Sticky, Kate, and Constance find themselves world travelers. They also just plain find themselves. In their original adventure we learned of their individual talents. Now that they’ve transformed from talented individuals to cohesive team, the challenge comes in staying cohesive, in working together, in trusting one another to do what’s best for the group.

Now one year after the conclusion the first book, Reynie has been adopted by Miss Perumal, Kate is reunited with her father, Sticky is back with his parents, and Constance has been adopted by Mr. Benedict.

Reynie and Sticky, along with their families, are traveling to Kate and Milligan’s farm, after which they all head to Mr. Benedict’s house for a reunion. Mr. Benedict, after planning a world wide scavenger hunt for the four children, has been abducted along with Number Two by the nefarious Mr. Curtain. Having already left his clues, the children follow Mr. Benedict’s trail – not to discover the prize at the end, but to find, and possibly save the lives of, their friends.

Mr. Curtain and Mr. Benedict have discovered an old family secret. Their scientist parents were researching the properties of duskwort. This plant’s amazing chemical makeup, while possibly able to aid people around the world, could also be an aid in conquering the world. Guess what Mr. Curtain wants? Guess what Mr. Benedict seeks to prevent?

Mr. Benedict’s clues lead the Society to Europe, aided by new acquaintances, including and exuberant young man named Cannonball, and hotly pursued by Mr. Curtain’s henchmen, the briefcase carrying, suit wearing, kill-you-as-soon-as-look-at-you Ten Men. Mr. Benedict’s clues play to the children’s strengths. Reynie’s deductive skills are keen as ever, but he doubts the goodness in the world, after witnessing so much badness. Knowledge still sticks to Sticky, but he’s challenged by pride and finding ways to use his skills without showing off. Kate’s quick thinking and gadget using (aided by a newly improved bucket) is tested by the desire for revenge against the Ten Men for all they’ve done to her father, a desire Milligan himself discourages, showing her the distinct difference between good and evil. Constance still does what she wants and says what she thinks, but struggles to understand her continually developing skills and her growing love of Mr. Benedict.

Once again there are puzzles and hints and clues, plenty of smarts and a good amount of out-smarting. Weighing in over 400 pages, the novel, much like the first one, slows down at times, but overall moves much quicker than the first. After meeting The Mysterious Benedict Society, readers will have no problem moving on to The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey. Of course, they’ll be eagerly awaiting the next installment as well.

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