The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner’s Dilemma by Trenton Lee Stewart
This book is the third of a trilogy, so it’s mostly concerned with tying up loose ends from the two previous books. As the novel opens, the four children are living in Mr. Benedict’s compound with their families because they need protection. The Whisperer, the villain Mr. Curtain’s mind control device, is there with them as well, in a kind of limbo because no one can agree on what to do with it. (One particularly sinister possibility that’s raised is that the government may want to use it to brainwash citizens.) The action really gets started when Mr. Curtain attacks Mr. Benedict’s home and the children are captured. They follow clues and solve riddles in the same way they did in previous books, driving the action with cute little brain-teasers. Constance’s telepathy proves particularly convenient in their escape attempts.
Mr. Curtain was probably my favorite part of this book. He was really reveling in his villainy this time, circling the children eight times with his motorized wheelchair while gloating about their capture. At the climax, he recognized his defeat and even found a bit of redemption in the love and loyalty of one of his minions. The ending is about as happy as happy can be, with even Mr. Benedict’s narcolepsy cured. There are some nice morals about teamwork and personal responsibility. Everything is phrased in a light, whimsical tone, rife with wordplay and hyperbole.
I think I was somewhat less charmed by this book than I was by the previous two, perhaps because it seemed so similar to them. I feel like ideally each book in a series should have something slightly new to offer. However, I’m sure that a child reader who enjoyed the first two novels would appreciate the chance to spend more time with the characters.