Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Reptile Room, Chapter 12

Once again, I'm typing this review directly onto the blog so any weird mistakes are completely unintentional. My computer is running kind of slowly at the moment as there are some big updates coming down so hopefully nothing untoward will happen here.

What Happens?
Mr Poe challenges Stephano on his snake knowledge just before Violet arrives with the evidence she found in his suitcase. She lays it out and together she and Klaus explain that Monty's death was murder. Monty was poisoned with venom from the Mamba du Mal and then Olaf was going to assume Monty's identity to transport the children to Peru. Finally Mr Poe consents to rubbing Stephano's ankle to see if the Olaf's eye tattoo has been covered up with make up, allowing the children to reveal Stephano for exactly who he really is.

Thoughts as I read:

This chapter opens with a fairly detailed little picture in a box at the bottom of the page. It appears to be in the Reptile Room showing a desk (with lots of books on shelves behind it) with all the things that Violet found in Stephano/Olaf's suitcase. We've got a bottle of poison, a syringe, the ticket for the boat to Peru, a membership card for (I guess) the Herpetological Society), a face powder applicator and a mirror. Anyone care to play Sherlock Holmes and deduce what all of this means?

Once again Snicket makes use of the phrase ' meanwhile, back at the ranch' but draws attention to the fact by promising it won't happen again. Okay, Mr Snicket, but I'll be watching you. We've jumped back in time to the end of Chapter 10 which was evidently occurring alongside the events of the previous chapter. Everything is all caught up now and Klaus is still explaining what Sunny meant by 'Aha'. For those who don't want to click back for a reminder, 'Aha!' basically meant 'Aha!'

I love this description here:

... now everyone in the Reptile Room was staring at Stephano. Sunny looked triumphant. Klaus looked defiant. Mr. Poe looked furious. Dr. Lucafont looked worried. You couldn't tell how the Incredibly Deadly Viper looked, because the facial expressions of snakes are difficult to read.

Mr Poe calls Stephano/Olaf on his sudden knowledge of snakes which Olaf attempts to explain away as his being modest before. Klaus suggests that maybe he was lying at which Olaf mentions Klaus's lack of evidence. Entirely the wrong thing to say as Violet has shown up with exactly that.

It's Violet's turn to look triumphant as she lays out the evidence we saw at the beginning of the chapter on the desk. It's everything that I said was there. I'm impressed at figuring out the powder puff thing was what I thought it was. At first I didn't have a clue, despite the brilliant detail of Brett Helquist's illustrations.

Of course the adults in this book have a bit of a habit of comically missing the point at crucial moments. So the scene briefly descends into a debate about how Violet, a nice girl, was able to pick the lock of Stephano's suitcase. Even Sunny jumps in with a 'Roofik!' to defend her sister. Luckily Mr Poe decides to shelve this conversation for the time being in order to allow Violet to get on with her little explanation.

Violet starts to explain that the Baudelaires were suspicious when Monty died, but Klaus corrects her; they knew Stephano/Olaf had done it. Lucafont tries to explain the cause of death again but Klaus helpfully explains that the books they read on the Mamba du Mal clearly state that they have a different MO when it comes to their victims. Someone clearly didn't do their research properly!

Mr Poe isn't yet sure that this constitutes evidence of a murder though, so it's up to Violet to point out the objects on the table. The vial contains Venom du Mal, the needle was used to make the bite marks. Olaf/Stephano tries to point out he'd have nothing to gain from murdering Monty, but Violet has found her stride and so chooses to ignore him completely, explaining how Stephano was going to take them to Peru where they would be difficult to trace.

But Stephano no longer had a ticket, so how was he to get them there? Why by posing as Dr. Montgomery Montgomery of course. Hence the ticket and the Hepetological Society membership card. Violet's a regular little Sherlock Holmes here, isn't she?

Mr Poe is still being a little bit dense about the whole thing. He still thinks that Stephano and Olaf are too separate people, so Violet has to spell it out for him. Obviously the make up and mirror are part of his disguise, used to cover up the tattoo on his ankle, while he shaved his eyebrow and grew a beard. She points out that there's a simple way to check this, they just need to wipe his ankle to see if the make up comes off.

Luckily Mr Poe seems willing to go along with this. Unfortunately nobody has a cloth, the assembled children chorus 'Not me' (or in Sunny's case 'Guweel!') when asked if they're able to provide one. Dr Lucafont is ready to call the whole thing off at this. I could almost imagine Mr Poe agreeing with him here, but luckily for us, and the Baudelaires, he produces his handkerchief.

Even now Olaf is trying to get out of the situation though. He doesn't want Mr Poe to rub his ankle with the handkerchief because it's the one Poe has been coughing into. He's afraid of the germs. Mr Poe is actually a little bit stern here. I like it, he should have balls a little bit more often.

Of course this was never going to go any other way. The Baudelaires knew Stephano was Olaf, Stephano knew he was Olaf, we knew Stephano was Olaf. There's a bit of suspense as the shape of the tattoo doesn't become visible right away. But then it does:

Violet, Klaus, and Sunny all stared at the eye, and the eye stared back. For the first time in their lives, the Baudelaire orphans were happy to see it.

And so ends the penultimate chapter. We'll wrap this book up on Thursday afternoon and it'll be like I never fell behind in my reading at all!

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