The Mysterious Benedict Society

Jun 22

 

This is the first in a series of four books:

  1. The Mysterious Benedict Society  (Review)
  2. The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey  (Review)
  3. The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner’s Dilemma  (Review)
  4. The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict  (Review)

This is a must-read series for anyone who enjoys reading junior fiction every now and again. The characters are likeable and you find yourself rooting for them through every chapter of every book. Let me start with the basics of the first book.

Characters

Nicholas Benedict a.k.a. Mr. Benedict — He places an ad in the newspaper asking, “Are you a gifted child looking for special opportunities?” He reluctantly wants to find gifted children to work on an important secret mission and sets out to form The Mysterious Benedict Society. Each child who answers his ad is invited to come take a series of seemingly arbitrary and strange tests, to which they have no idea what answers he might be looking for, but he is looking for exceptionally clever and honest children who possess special skills (logic, intuition, physical agility, intellect etc.) and soon he finds just the right four for the purpose — to stop his evil twin brother, Ledroptha Curtain, from using “The Whisperer” (a machine that can wipe people’s memories and make them susceptible to suggestions from Mr. Curtain). He intends to send the Mysterious Benedict Society to spy on his brother at Mr. Curtain’s Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened (L.I.V.E.). Mr. Benedict and Mr. Curtain both have a special type of narcolepsy brought on by strong emotions. Mr. Benedict’s narcolepsy is triggered by emotions of love and happiness, often by laughter.

Number Two — This is her code name because she resembles a pencil with her yellow complexion, red hair and she always wears yellow as well. I won’t tell you her real name (that would be a spoiler). She is one of two assistants to Mr. Benedict. She is rarely sleeps but must eat constantly to make up for it. She is always at Mr. Benedict’s side to catch him and ensure he does not hurt himself should he fall asleep. She took Mr. Benedict’s tests many years ago and has been his personal assistant ever since.

Rhonda Kazembe — Rhonda is the other assistant to Mr. Benedict. She grew up in Zambia and is very small for her age. Like Number Two, she passed Mr. Benedict’s tests years before and has been his assistant ever since. She is used as a decoy test taker who offers up ways to cheat in order to test the children’s integrity. She looks out for Mr. Benedict along with Number Two ensuring he doesn’t hurt himself when he falls asleep.

Ledroptha Curtain a.k.a. Mr. Curtain — Mr. Curtain is Mr. Benedict’s twin brother. He has narcolepsy as well but his narcolepsy is triggered by anger and frustration. He is the antagonist of the stories. He is an evil, selfish, mean man who wishes to brain sweep the entire world and become the most powerful man in the world, in his words to become the “Minister And Secretary of all The Earth’s Regions” (M.A.S.T.E.R.). He invented the Whisper, a machine that wipes people’s memories and allows him to put thoughts and ideas into others minds. Mr. Curtain runs the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened (L.I.V.E.) which is a place for extraordinarily intelligent children.

Reynard Muldon a.k.a Reynie — Reynie is an orphan living at Stonetown Orphanage. He is eleven years old and is extremely good at solving problems, logical deduction and reading people’s emotions/intentions. He is “average” looking by all accounts: average brown hair, average pale skin and average clothes. But his ability to figure out puzzles and his observational skills are far above average. The only person in the world he has been able to count on up till joining the Mysterious Benedict Society is Miss Perumal, his tutor at the orphanage.

George Washington a.k.a. Sticky — Sticky, like Reynie, is eleven years old and an orphan by choice, he ran away from home when his parents forced him to compete in academic competitions for the prize money. He is very timid and nervous, reaching to polish his glasses any time he feels stressed out at all. This is his nervous tick. He got his nickname, Sticky, because everything he reads sticks in his head. He can speed read and with his photographic memory, is like a walking encyclopedia. He is sheepish, “tea-colored”, wears glasses and keeps his hair shaven.

Kate Wetherall a.k.a. The Great Kate Weather Machine — Kate is a twelve year old girl who is agile, dexterous and resourceful; her athletic abilities are like her super power. Whereas Reynie can make logical deductions and solve problems extraordinarily well… Sticky can remember things… Kate can figure out space, distance and achieve almost any sort of physical task or obstacle. Kate is always prepared. She keeps a bucket filled with various items attached to her belt at all times. Inside her bucket she has a swiss army knife, a pen light, a rope, a bag of marbles, a slingshot, a spool of fishing twine, a horse shoe magnet, a spyglass disguised as a kaleidoscope and a flashlight. She has infinite amount of energy and spunk. She is always cheerful and optimistic and always ready to be moving. Kate, like the others, is an orphan. Her mother died as a baby and she was told her father abandoned her. She joined the circus and trained for many years at extraordinary physical feats of wonder. Kate is tall for her age and a thin blonde girl of average looks and extraordinary blue eyes like the ocean.

Constance Contraire a.k.a. Connie or Connie girl — Constance is the smallest of the four members of the Benedict Society. She is obnoxious, stubborn and cranky. She loves to compose whimsical poems, usually detesting something or berating someone in them. She is very intelligent and ultra-sensitive. Prone to mood-swings, mostly bad ones and has no problem being spoiled and indignant. She is an orphan and cannot recall what happened to either of her parents.

Milligan — Milligan is a guard employed by Mr. Benedict to protect the children. He is sad and down a lot because he was kidnapped by secret agents working for Mr. Curtain and was brain-swept, leaving him without any memories whatsoever. But something he cannot remember is making him sad. I won’t spoil it and tell you! Read the book! He is a tall, athletic and very capable blond man with ocean blue eyes.

Miss Perumal — Miss Perumal is Reynie’s tutor, an Indian woman who is intelligent and friendly. She is the only person who is kind to Reynie at the orphanage. She also speaks Tamil, which she teaches Reynie during their lessons. She plays an integral part in Reynie’s life but I won’t spoil it for you!

Mr. Rutger — Mr. Rutger is the Stonetown Orphanage director. He is greedy and thoughtless. He only wishes to keep as many children in the orphanage as possible to get the money each child brings in from the state.

S.Q. Pedalian — S.Q. is an “Executive” working for Mr. Curtain. He is a tall, clumsy but kind-hearted kid with size 15 shoes (which lends to his name — sesquipedalian which translates from Latin as “a foot and a half long”). He wants to do the right thing and seems oblivious to Mr. Curtain’s evil intentions. He is loyal to Mr. Curtain because he believes Mr. Curtain means to do good once he gains power over the entire world. He wants to believe in Mr. Curtain because he is all he has as family.

Martina Crowe — Martina is a nasty girl with an extraordinary cruel streak. Martina has a black ponytail and wears a green shirt and a pair of jeans and sneakers, she is described as a scary looking teenager. She resents Reynie and Sticky almost immediately for getting better grades than her which threatens her position as a Messenger (see below) at the Institute.

Jackson — Jackson is described as being short and stocky with red hair, icy blue eyes, and a nose resembling a knife. He and Jillson are inseparable but the exact relationship between the two is never clarified—they could be siblings, friends or boyfriend/girlfriend. He believes himself to be intelligent and clever and always believes he is right. He has a permanent chip on his shoulder and likes to pick on other students in any way he can. He has a particular disdain for the members of the Mysterious Benedict Society. Jackson is a Head Executive and abuses his power in any way he can.

Jillson — Jillson is the other Head Executive. She is a towering 6 foot girl with a greasy brown ponytail tied with a wire, small piggish eyes of an indeterminate color and arms like jackhammers. Wherever Jackson is, you will find Jillson. They are inseparable. She is the muscle in the team whereas Jackson thinks he is the brains. Jillson believes she is the best at anything she does and better than everyone else but is often shown up by the Mysterious Benedict Society which enrages her to no end and makes her a fast enemy of the four, being especially hateful towards Kate. Jillson was a special recruit (see below).

 

Terms

The Institutea.k.a. the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened (L.I.V.E.) – the institute founded and run by Mr. Curtain is disguised as a boarding school but is really a school to use exceptionally gifted children as “Messengers” to transmit global subliminal messages. At the Institute there are students, helpers, messengers, recruiters and executives.

  • Helpers – Brainswept government officials or inspectors, etc., employed as custodians on the Institute grounds. The Helpers do everything from sewing the uniforms, to mopping the floors, to cooking the food. Milligan would have been made a Helper if he hadn’t escaped the island. They refuse to answer any questions about themselves, are not allowed to make eye contact with the students and seem to always be very depressed.
  • Messengers — Students who are the top of the class. They wear white tunics, blue sashes, and striped trousers, and are privy to “special privileges” (sessions in the Whisperer with Mr. Curtain). Sending messages is very draining and one must know the material very well for it to work, so only the best students are chosen. Other students generally act with great hostility towards aspiring Messengers, but once they’ve been elected the other Messengers greet them as fiends and welcome them to their exclusive cafeteria table.
  • Recruiters — Professional kidnappers working for Mr. Curtain. They utilize special weapons against their victims such as “shockwatches” which electrocute someone. They seem to rather enjoy torturing people, even children. In some cases, especially children. They train extensively at the L.I.V.E. gym in preparation for the Improvement.
  • Executives — Former Messengers who were promoted to be Mr. Curtain’s assistants. They are given a briefing that explains to them the Institute’s true purpose. They serve as both authority figures and teachers.
  • Special Recruits — Children, usually orphans and/or runaways , who have been abducted by Recruiters and brain-swept. These are the students who are most likely to become Messengers, and Executives in due course because they are most loyal and susceptible to Mr. Curtain and the Whisperer.

The Whisperer — The Whisperer is a malevolent device invented by Mr. Curtain to control the world. It is capable of hiding memories known as Brainsweeping and reading the mind. The whisperer consists of a chair with two helmets on either side, one blue one red, and a bank of computers. There are five parts to the Whisperer:

  • Executive Brain Amplifier – The back helmet of The Whisperer which converts electrical impulses along with conscious thoughts formed in the frontal lobe and cerebral cortex of Mr. Curtain’s brain to be pushed into another person’s brain.
  • Lobotomal coil – A wire connecting the two helmets of The Whisperer that transmit the impulses of Mr. Curtain’s brain to the Messenger.
  • Mental Collection Basin – The front helmet of The whisperer, which collects messages to be transmitted to the public, powered by the energy of the tidal turbines.
  • Transference Helix – A wire connecting both helmets of The Whisperer that sends the thoughts of Mr. Curtain’s brain to that of the Messenger.
  • Restraining Cuffs – Used to monitor the pulse and vital signs of the Messenger, while increasing Mr. Curtain’s sense of control over the Messenger.

 

An extraordinary, eccentric man (Mr. Benedict) places an ad in the paper asking “Are you a gifted child looking for special opportunities?”. A number of children respond to the ad and are invited to come take a series of tests. These tests seem rather odd and pointless but they are all aimed at gauging logic, integrity, honesty, character, special talents, intuition, problem solving skills and agility. Only four children pass the tests — Reynie, Sticky, Kate and Constance. They become The Mysterious Benedict Society recruited to become spies at Mr. Benedict’s evil twin brother’s institute (L.I.V.E. — the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened). They must infiltrate the institute, do well and gain the trust of Mr. Curtain in order to help Mr. Benedict sabotage the dastardly plan of his brother, Mr. Curtain.

The children face grave danger deciding to accept this mission but what choice do they have? They can’t allow Mr. Curtain to take over the world, brainsweeping everyone in the process and destroying all that is good. At the Institute they must endure hours of repetitive and ridiculous lessons; sessions in the Whisperer which wipes away memories while becoming addicting making you feel like you are not afraid of anything; constant bullying by Martina, Jackson and Jillson; and facing the wrath of Mr. Curtain himself — an angry man who rides around in a loud, obnoxious and intimidating wheelchair lest he fall asleep and harm himself walking. Each of the four are equipped with their own special talents: Reynie with his extraordinary logic and problem solving, not to mention his intuition; Constance with her stubborn resolve, exception intellect and almost clairvoyant intuition; Kate with her super-human dexterity, agility and physical capability to do just about anything and Sticky with his photographic memory, speed-reading ability and his penchant for reading everything he can get his hands on.

Together, these exceptional orphaned children work together with one another and with Mr. Benedict to save the world. They are frightened, inspired, overwhelmed, bullied, discouraged and empowered. Each child is pushed to their limits and beyond challenging them, as a group, to be part of this make-shift family, learning to depend on one another — in others for the first time and to ultimately, believe in themselves.

And nope, I will not tell you what happens… read the book! It is well worth it. Also, I read this book (and the entire series) aloud to other people. It makes for a fun shared read.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *