Mr. Benedict’s Book of Perplexing Puzzles, Elusive Engimas, and Curious Conundrums by Trenton Lee Stewart
Review: This companion book to the popular Mysterious Benedict Society series allows readers to test their wits against some of the types of problems faced by Reynie, Sticky, Constance, and Kate. The puzzles range in difficulty, with some requiring only a moment of thought and others more serious study. Short character biographies and scrapbook items such as newspaper clippings or brochures are interspersed throughout the book and an excerpt from the new prequel, The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict, appears at the end. The quirky illustrations, the bonus material, and the fun puzzles are all clearly meant to appeal to fans of the series.
The book succeeds in bringing to the readers the charm and whimsy found in the original stories. However, the intent to please fans necessarily excludes those unfamiliar with the trilogy. Not only does much of the bonus material include spoilers, but some of the puzzles also require readers to have some knowledge of the characters. Even those who have not read the trilogy in some time may find themselves scratching their heads over otherwise simple problems.
Since the series is geared toward middle grade readers, the majority of the puzzles prove straightforward in design and nature. As one progresses through the book, solving the puzzles becomes even easier as one begins to understand the mind behind them. Even so, a few of the problems prove quite tricky. Though the book does not include an answer guide, hints appear at the end to help guide readers toward a solution.
Fans of the series who enjoyed trying to solve riddles and puzzles along with the Mysterious Benedict Society will find this a fun little book. The bonus material, however, includes no new information (other than the excerpt of the now-published prequel). Readers may thus want to consider seriously whether it would be more expedient for them to buy or borrow the book.