Who Could That Be at This Hour? by Lemony Snicket, reviewed by Josh Lacey
Neatly packaged in a small hardback and evocatively illustrated by Canadian cartoonist Seth (see picture), the latest adventures of Lemony Snicket are filled with themes and obsessions familiar from the chronicles of the Baudelaires - abandonment, loneliness, the slippery nature of language - and wrapped in a web of obscure references to everything from Saki's short stories to the titles of Duke Ellington's albums. Will any reader get all these references? Of course not, but that's part of the joy of the book, the sense that you're inhabiting a fictional universe whose boundaries you can't reach. Some children's novelists limit themselves to what they think their readers are capable of; Handler creates his own fantastical world and invites us to find our own way through it.
A Series of Unfortunate Events started brilliantly, but dipped in quality over its 13 books; this time, sensibly, Handler has limited himself to only four. The first is a charming, clever and enormously enjoyable little mystery which asks all sorts of questions, but answers very few of them; I'm already impatient to read the rest of the series. JOSH LACEY