The Penultimate Peril by Lemony Snicket: A-

From the back cover:
Dear Reader,

If this is the first book you found while searching for a book to read next, then the first thing you should know is that this next-to-last book is what you should put down first. Sadly, this book presents the next-to-last chronicle of the lives of the Baudelaire orphans, and it is next-to-first in its supply of misery, despair, and unpleasantness.

Probably the next-to-last things you would like to read about are a harpoon gun, a rooftop sunbathing salon, two mysterious initials, three unidentified triplets, a notorious villain, and an unsavory curry.

Next-to-last things are the first thing to be avoided, and so allow me to recommend that you put this next-to-last book down first, and find something else to read next at last, such as the next-to-last book in another chronicle, or a chronicle containing other next-to-last things, so that this next-to-last book does not become the last book you will read.

With all due respect,
Lemony Snicket

I found the first half of this book not to be very interesting. About midway through, however, a character appears and spurs a new direction. The last half was great, expounding on the themes of moral ambiguity and less-than-perfect loved ones that were introduced in The Grim Grotto. The Baudelaires are again compelled to act in a manner less noble than they would wish. One thing in particular, though it had been alluded to in an early chapter, completely stunned me.

This book is the darkest yet in the series. Although it doesn’t answer any new questions, there is nonetheless the feeling of wrapping up some things, leaving the way clear for the final resolution in the concluding volume. My enthusiasm had kind of waned for this series (I read the previous volume two months ago), but this installment successfully rejuvenated it.

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