"There was a town, and there was a girl, and there was a theft. I was living in the town, and I was hired to investigate the theft, and I thought the girl had nothing to do with it. I was almost thirteen and I was wrong. I was wrong about all of it. I should have asked the question 'Why would somebody say something was stolen when it was never theirs in the first place?' Instead, I asked the wrong question— four wrong questions, more or less."
All The Wrong Questions is a four-part prequel series to A Series of Unfortunate Events. It is written by Daniel Handler, once again writing as Lemony Snicket. The series concerns him as a thirteen year-old boy, hinted to be working with VFD in a series of mysterious cases. The first book, "Who Could That Be At This Hour?" was released on October 23, 2012. The second book, "When Did You See Her Last?" followed on October 15, 2013.
Adults Are Useless: As in the previous series, almost every adult is either useless or evil. Discussed by all the children at one point or another.
Art Major Biology: The Clusterous Forest is made up entirely out of seaweed. Many are surprised that the algae learned to grow on land.
Bad Boss: Lemony is apprenticed to S. Theodora Markson, who yells for Lemony to do things her way but it becomes clear that he's the smarter. Lemony hints at the end that he secretly arranged to have a terrible chaperone for his plan in the city.
Batman Gambit: Ellington Feint secretly steals the statue from Lemony and replaces it with a bag of Black Cat brand coffee. Lemony then visits the abandoned Black Cat and there finds the statue hidden in the attic for him.
Big Bad: Hangfire, a mysterious man who wants the statue of the Bombinating Beast and is holding Ellington Feint's father for ransom.
Lemony and his associate in the city communicate by sending notes "disguised" as book orders to the library. The fake author and book title combinations tend to be things like Sorry, But I Can Not Meet You At The Fountain or Don T. Worry, I'll Measure It Myself (“Sounds like a math textbook of some kind”). Lemony claims the authors' names are weird because they're Belgian.
Book Ends: The opening illustration is that of a young girl waiting in a train station who is later revealed to be Kit Snicket. The last illustration is of her grumpily visiting the unfinished Fountain of Victorious Finance.
Book Two continues this trend, with the opening illustration being the same girl trying to open a hatch (with the letters VFD on it, no less) and the end is her getting arrested.
Brick Joke: Upon hearing screaming, Lemony narrates how one can easily track down screaming by drawing nine rows of 14 squares in a piece of paper, then throwing it away and looking for the screamer because there's no time to waste. Later, when Lemony tries to keep Prosper Lost from following him, he tells him to track the sound of Theodora's screams by drawing nine rows of 14 squares.
The Bully: Stew Mitchum, a bratty boy who blames all his misdeeds on Lemony and gets away with it because his parents are policemen.
The Butler Did It: is the first sentence of the last chapter. It turns out the villain was pretending to be Mrs. Sallis's butler.
Call Forward: Being a prequel, the series continues several hints to later unfortunate events.
The Fountain of Victorious Finance is being built.
Hector from The Vile Village is met in the final chapter as a twelve year old, and is already performing ballooning projects. His liking of Mexican food is also mentioned.
Hector reveals at the end that Lemony's associate in the city is his sister Kit Snicket.
Dr. Montgomery Montgomery is mentioned.
Lemony occasionally expresses fondness for root beer floats, just as he did in The Beatrice Letters.
And most significantly, the Great Unknown introduced in The Grim Grotto is hinted to be the Bombinating Beast, a Cthulhu-esque creature that's legendary in the town.
Captain Widdershins appears, mentions Gustav (Montgomery's deceased assistant at the start of The Reptile Room) and, like Hector, delivers Lemony some news that he really, really would not rather have heard.
Chekhov's Gun: The Sallis butler is heard imitating the calls of birds as he feeds them. As Hangfire, he uses this skill to mimic people's voices.
Lemony reads in the newspaper about Dame Sally Murphy, the town's legendary actress. She turns out to still be alive and having been pretending to be Mrs. Sallis.
Every time Lemony as the narrator mentions he should have done something different in a scene, that's a good sign that at the moment something suspicious is going on.
Chekhov's Skill: Inverted. Lemony failed his lockpicking exam because he threw a rock through a window to get inside instead. He later does this again to drain the water that threatens to drown Sally Murphy.
City with No Name: Sort of; the majority of the plot takes places at Stain'd-by-the-Sea, but the city that Lemony came from and often refers to is never named.
Cliffhanger: At the last minute the statue is stolen, and the hunt for Hangfire continues. In addition, Lemony has to get back to the city so he can resume work with his sister.
Compressed Hair: At one point Theodora somehow manages to get her huge mess of hair under a small helmet.
Conflict Ball: Lemony abandons Moxie rather than let her track down Ellington and Hangfire with him.
Creepy Child: Stew, of all children, reveals himself to be this in the second book. He has a friend who's good with a knife...
Dissimile: It's Lemony Snicket narrating. There are dozens.
Disappeared Dad: Ellington Feint's father, who has been kidnapped by Hangfire and held for ransom in exchange for the statue.
Doting Parents: The officers Mitchum, who fawn over their bratty son, unaware that he's the one doing all the local vandalism.
Dude, Where's My Reward?: Rather than thank them for saving her life, Sally Murphy yells at Lemony and Moxie for asking about who tried to drown her.
Dying Town: Stain'd-by-the-Sea, whose main export, ink, is running out. Already the town newspaper and telegraph have closed, and other businesses like the taxi and cafe have to make do on bartering instead of money.
Eldritch Abomination: The Bombinating Beast, a legendary undersea creature that was said to live by Stain'd-by-the-Sea.
The Faceless: As per tradition Lemony's face is never seen, not even in the illustrations.
Free-Range Children: Lemony travels with false parents then does detective work on his own. Moxie's dad lounges on the couch while she writes for the town news in hopes of joining her mother in the city. Pip and Squeak's dad is sick so they drive the taxi.
Gambit Pileup: Theodora wants to be promoted. Lemony wants to get back to the city. The other chaperone candidates want to kidnap him. Ellington wants to save her father. Mrs. Sallis wants the statue of the Bombinating Beast and so does Hangfire. And Moxie wants to become a reporter.
The Ghost: The Bombinating Beast is only referred to but never seen in life. It's not clear if it's dead or myth but if it's the Great Unknown, then it's most certainly neither.
Hangfire. He only appears once disguised as a quickly ignored butler, then lurks in wait for others to get him the statue.
He does show up in person in When Did You See Her Last? but we never see his face.
Homage: While the previous series was heavily inspired off of Gothic literature, this series is a tribute to noir detective fiction, including the plot of the first book resembling The Maltese Falcon.
House Husband: Mr. Mallahan, while Mrs. Mallahan is off in the city working for their newspaper.
Kid Detective: Young Lemony was one! So is a girl reporter he meets at the town, Moxie.
When he's called this in the second book, he corrects the speaker. He is not a detective. His job is not to solve mysteries, it's to poke around and find information for his organization. He specifically calls himself a walking library stack.
Lemony Narrator: Even as a boy, Lemony's style continues to be idiosyncratic.
MacGuffin: The statue of the Bombinating Beast, which Mrs. Sallis says was stolen from her by the Mallahans. In reality, the statue was the Mallahans's for generations but they consider it to be worthless. Hangfire and the false Mrs. Sallis pretended it was stolen so he could acquire it.
Miles Gloriosus: Theodora thinks she's a great teacher who is ranked twelfth on the list of best chaperones. She's actually ranked 52nd.
Missing Mom: Moxie's, but she's alive. She works for the newspaper in the city, and Moxie hopes to soon join her.
Not Now, Kiddo: Theodora refuses to listen to Lemony and insists on running things her own way, such as breaking the Mallahans's house to steal the statue, while Lemony tries to tell her that they already gave him the statue for free.
S. Theodora refuses to tell anyone what the S in her name stands for. But all of her following statements begin with S, such as 'Standing next to me is my apprentice'.
Scenery Gorn: The town Lemony is brought to, Stain'd-by-the-Sea, is a former coastal town that literally had the surrounding ocean drained away, leaving an enormous desert filled with sunken boats and mining machinery.
Shout-Out: Once again, Lemony Snicket encourages kids to be quite well read, rarely saying what the books' titles are.
Lemony decides that The Analysis of Black, Brown, and Beige sounds like a really boring book, but Ellington disagrees, saying that that's the first book she would have picked up. Black, Brown, and Beige is a jazz symphony by Duke Ellington.