The Mysterious Benedict Society

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The Mysterious Benedict Society
The Mysterious Benedict Society.jpg
AuthorTrenton Lee Stewart
Cover artistCarson Ellis
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
SeriesThe Mysterious Benedict Society
GenreYoung adult
PublisherLittle, Brown and Company
Publication date
March 7th 2008
Pages485 pgs
ISBN978-0-316-05777-6
OCLC66392644
LC ClassPZ7.S8513 My 2007
Followed byThe Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey 

The Mysterious Benedict Society is a novel written by Trenton Lee Stewart and illustrated by Carson Ellis, first published in 2007. It tells the story of four gifted children: Reynie Muldoon, George "Sticky" Washington, Kate Wetherall, and Constance Contraire, who form the "Mysterious Benedict Society" and are sent to investigate an institution called L.I.V.E. (the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened), run by the elusive, brilliant, and evil Ledroptha Curtain.

Plot[edit]

Reynard "Reynie" Muldoon is an orphaned boy with a love for puzzles and books, living in an orphanage in the metropolis of Stonetown with his tutor Miss Perumal. Upon noticing an advertisement in a newspaper targeted towards gifted children, he follows up and finds himself presented with a series of complex puzzles and odd tests. He passes all the tests set before him and becomes eligible to help Mr. Benedict. He meets three other children who are gifted in their own way, George "Sticky" Washington, Kate Wetherall, and Constance Contraire. Mr. Benedict, the organizer of the tests, is assisted by his subordinates Number Two, Rhonda Kazembe, and Milligan, the secret agent turned security guard for Benedict.

They explain that a mysterious threat plagues the world in the form of secret messages transmitted into people's minds via television and radio signals. These messages have created the illusion of international panic known as "The Emergency". Mr. Benedict invited the children to form a team to stop the Sender, the individual sending the messages. The messages originate at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened "L.I.V.E.". Although initially hesitant, the children agree and name themselves "The Mysterious Benedict Society".

Upon joining the Institute as students as spies, the children discover that the school's principal Ledroptha Curtain is Mr. Benedict's long-lost twin brother. They also find that like the Emergency, the Institute relies on illusions like its pretentious lack of rules and nonsensical curriculum that can only be mastered by memorization. A hierarchy also exists among the student body:

  • Executives, the older students that run the Institute.
  • Messengers, the slightly younger students with "special privileges".
  • Recruiters, the adult kidnappers.
  • Helpers, abducted amnesiac adults who do the grunt work around the school, such as cooking meals and cleaning dorms.

Deducing that Messengers are the ones broadcasting the secret messages, Reynie and Sticky succeed in their lessons and become Messengers themselves. They help Kate and Constance cheat on their tests so they too succeed.

Through their investigation, the children discover that Mr. Curtain transmits his messages through a device known as the Whisperer that interfaces directly with his brain. Mr. Curtain, after convincing the world that the Emergency exists, is preparing to tell the world that he alone can solve the problems. They also discover that this machine is capable of "sweeping away" memories.

When the children learn that Milligan, who has been helping them behinds the scene, is kidnapped, and that Mr. Curtain plans to boost his messages to transmit directly to people's brains, The Mysterious Benedict Society concoct a daring plan. While Sticky and Reynie are in Mr. Curtain's office for their Messenger duties, Kate and Constance break in. Mr. Curtain attempts to wipe their memories, but Constance nearly overpowers him through her stubbornness. Reynie triggers Mr. Curtain's narcolepsy via angering him, allowing Mr. Benedict to enter the Institute to destroy the Whisperer just as Milligan breaks out of his prison through the underground sewers.

Returning to Stonetown, the four children who had previously no parents or had been estranged from them either reunite with their families or create new ones. Miss Perumal decides to adopt Reynie, Kate discovers Milligan is actually her father who was brainwashed, Sticky reunites with his parents, and Mr. Benedict adopts Constance, who is revealed to be a two-year-old. The story ends as the children have a snowball fight amongst one another, with Mr. Benedict laughing himself to sleep repeatedly because of his narcolepsy.

Characters[edit]

Main characters[edit]

  • Reynard "Reynie" Muldoon is an eleven-year-old boy living at Stonetown Orphanage. He is talented at problem-solving, logical deduction, and perceiving people's emotions. His intelligence results in the assignment of a special tutor at the orphanage, Miss Perumal. Reynie looks between the lines, observing and questioning, and solves most problems by looking for a "puzzle" within the situation. He is described as an especially average-looking boy with average brown hair, average pale complexion, and average clothes.
  • George "Sticky" Washington, is an eleven-year-old, bald, tea-skinned boy. He has a great memory (everything "sticks" in his head, hence his nickname) and a talent for reading quickly. He is timid and nervous and resorts to polishing his glasses in stressful situations. He ran away from his parents because they forced him into academic competitions and he thought they no longer wanted him around.
  • Kate Wetherall is a twelve-year-old girl who is sporty, dexterous, strong, and creative. After being orphaned, she ran away to the circus. She has blonde hair, blue eyes, and fair skin. She carries a red bucket containing various items which she thinks are useful, including an army knife, a flashlight, a pen, a rope, a bag of marbles, a slingshot, a spool of clear fishing twine, a horseshoe magnet and a spyglass disguised as a kaleidoscope. She is very cheerful and optimistic. Kate's mother died when she was a baby and believes her father left her (when she was young) because of her mother's tragic death.
  • Constance Contraire is a small, extremely intelligent, and stubborn girl. She has the ability to write clever and brutal poems, and her ultra-sensitive mind is most affected by the Whisperer. By the novel's end, she is also Mr. Benedict's adopted daughter and also reveals that she is only 2 years old.
  • Milligan is a former government agent and current guard for the children, Rhonda, Number Two, and Mr. Benedict. He is a sad and somber man, even described as a "scarecrow" due to his shabby and depressing demeanor. His sadness is attributed to his kidnapping by secret agents after which he was brainwashed and lost his memory. Although unsure of his actual name, "Milligan" was the first word he remembered on regaining consciousness, and he adopted it as his name. He later recovers his memory and discovers he is Kate's father. Milligan also has flax blond hair and ocean blue eyes.
  • Mr. Nicholas Benedict is a middle-aged man who recruits the children. He is the one who discovered the plans of his identical twin brother, Ledroptha Curtain, from whom he was separated from just after birth because their parents had died. Mr. Benedict suffers from narcolepsy, which causes him to fall asleep when experiencing strong emotions (usually laughter).
  • Ledroptha Curtain is the antagonist of the story and the head of the "Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened", or L.I.V.E. and "The Emergency" are his tools for creating mass panic and destabilizing the world's major governments. Mr. Curtain created the mind-control and mind-message transmitter device called "the Whisperer", which utilizes children's minds to spread propaganda and subliminal messages through television as part of a scheme to usurp control of the entire world and be declared "Minister And Secretary of all the Earth's Regions" (M.A.S.T.E.R.). He is also revealed to be Mr. Benedict's long-lost twin brother. He uses a modified wheelchair to get around and wears mirrored sunglasses in order to conceal his narcolepsy. Mr. Curtain's narcolepsy is triggered by anger, as a foil to his twin's laughter-induced narcolepsy.

Supporting characters[edit]

  • S.Q. Pedalian is an Executive working for Mr. Curtain. He is dim-witted and clumsy but is the only Executive who is kind to the Mysterious Benedict Society. He is also somewhat oblivious to the evils of Mr. Curtain, the Institute, and the Whisperer's effects on the world's inhabitants.
  • Jackson and Jillson are the Head Executives at the Institute and are noted for their unkind ways. Jackson has icy blue eyes, is stockily built, and has a nose long and sharp like a knife. Jillson is six feet tall, has small piggy eyes, and 'arms like a monkey
  • Martina Crowe is originally a Messenger and later Executive at the Institute. She despises the members of the Mysterious Benedict Society because she feels threatened by their intelligence, but holds particular enmity for Kate.
  • Miss Perumal is Reynie's tutor. She is Indian and is intelligent and friendly. She eventually adopts Reynie in the end.
  • Mr. Rutger is the Stonetown Orphanage director. Although not unkind, he is blinded by greed to Reynie's obvious higher educational needs. He gets paid for each student so he doesn't let Reynie go to an advanced school.
  • The Helpers make food, do laundry, and perform other manual labor tasks at the Institute. They are not allowed to talk to any students at L.I.V.E. or make eye contact. They share the same vacant, sad expressions as Milligan and Reynie soon discover that the Helpers may have been brought to the Institute against their wills.
  • The Recruiters kidnap children for the Institute, to be used for Mr. Curtain's Whisperer messages. In the following books The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey and The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma, they evolve into the Ten Men, so named for their ten ways of murdering people.

Critical reception[edit]

The Mysterious Benedict Society has received generally positive reviews. Many of the critics praised the enigmatic plot and puzzles included in the storyline; Michele Norris, writing for the Guardian, said, "Almost everything inside this book is an enigma."[1] Additionally, the ethical decisions and moral lessons contained within the book were praised. Kirkus Review said that the book was "rich in moral and ethical issues."[2]

Awards[edit]

The Mysterious Benedict Society was a New York Times bestseller in 2017 and won the Booklist Editors' Choice: Books for Youth award in 2007, the Notable Children's Books award in 2008, and the Texas Lone Star Books award in August 2013.

Sequels[edit]

Two sequels (the second and third books in the series) were published in 2008 and 2009: The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey and The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma.

A prequel, The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict, was released on April 10, 2012. [3]

A supplementary book, The Mysterious Benedict Society: Mr. Benedict's Book of Perplexing Puzzles, Elusive Enigmas, and Curious Conundrums, was also released.

A new title, The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Riddle of Ages, is slated for publication on September 24, 2019. The title will feature the addition of a new member of the Mysterious Benedict Society, and will focus on a mission taking place several years after the events of The Prisoner's Dilemma.[4]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]