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Literature / The Mysterious Benedict Society

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The Mysterious Benedict Society follows the adventures of Child Prodigy Reynard "Reynie" Muldoon, circus runaway Kate Wetherall, Constance Contraire, and George "Sticky" Washington, a nervous boy with a Photographic Memory. The books feature a mixture of high adventure, philosophy and intellectual challenges, as well as a number of science fiction elements.

The books were extremely well-reviewed as well as best-sellers. To date, four books have been released in the original series, as well as a prequel book and a companion book. The fourth title in the main series, The Riddle of Ages, was published in September 2019, nearly a decade after the release of the final title in the original series.

  1. The Mysterious Benedict Society (2007)
  2. The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey (2008)
  3. The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma (2009)
  4. The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Riddle of Ages (September 24, 2019)
  • The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict (2012), a prequel featuring a childhood adventure of Nicholas Benedict
  • Mr. Benedict's Book of Perplexing Puzzles, Elusive Enigmas, and Curious Conundrums (2011), a companion book featuring a number of puzzles based on the series and characters, as well as supplementary material such as character profiles, and a preview of Extraordinary Education

In 2020, it was announced that Hulu would be working to adapt the books as a television series. Ahead of its release, the show was transferred to Disney+. It stars Tony Hale as Mr. Benedict and premiered June 25th, 2021, later being renewed for a second season. The second season will to some degree adapt the events of the second book by sending the children of the Society on a globetrotting adventure when Mr. Benedict and Number Two are kidnapped by Dr. Curtain. It, however, also introduces a new element of Dr. Curtain tempting the world with an invention that can "make anyone happy," rather than the duskwort plot of the book. Trailer here. Trailer for the second season here. Season 2 arrives October 26, 2022 with a two-episode premiere.

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    Tropes that apply to both the books and series 

  • Action Girl: Kate is skilled at physical fighting and used to belong to the circus. If there's something acrobatic to do, she's your girl. Played up in the last book.
  • Adoptive Name Change: Reynie's full name, as revealed in the first sentence of The Riddle of Ages, officially became Reynie Muldoon Perumal after Ms. Perumal adopted him.
  • An Aesop: While there are many morals to be found throughout the series, the overarching lesson seems to be this: while there are many wicked people in the world, there are many good people as well, and people can surprise you, if you are willing to take a chance on trusting someone. A secondary one seems to be that while one can sometimes take comfort in a lie, one would do better to seek out the truth, as it is better to know it in the long-run, even if it may cause pain in the short-term. Another ongoing theme is that it's okay for friendships to change.
  • Be Yourself:
    • Each of the members of the Mysterious Benedict Society are chosen for their own particular talents and though they may at times wish to be more like each other or doubt themselves, ultimately they can only succeed by being themselves. Used humorously when Constance is lamenting a hastily devised plan that even narration describes as being "bold, ill-formed and likely to fail."
    "How are we supposed to do that?" Constance asked, launching into a tirade about how ill-prepared they were, how little time they had, and how this plan was giving her a worse headache than the hidden message broadcasts did. "So I ask you again," she concluded, "exactly how are we supposed to distract the Helpers?" "Just be yourself," Kate said with a sigh.
    • Later in the first book, the Society are given a clue advising the opposite, telling them that success requires them to become something they are not to keep on top of things. The group eventually realizes that the answer is "cheaters", and they devise ways to cheat in their exams so that they can be promoted and learn more about what Mr. Curtain is doing.
  • Book Worm: Reynie, Sticky and Mr. Benedict. Reynie is just as much a voracious reader as the other two, but doesn't possess their eidetic memory, and thus, while being a reasonably fast and studious reader, can't process books nearly as fast as the other two, much to his disappointment. As a child, Mr. Benedict loved reading, but had access to few books, and was mostly left to scrounging for newspapers. Simply reading a dictionary was for him a real treat. When he moved to a new orphanage, his delight at discovering it had a massive library was matched only by his bitterness and disappointment that only a very limited amount of free time was allowed each day for reading and that he couldn't get permission to borrow books to take up to his room. He eventually discovered that the library was the treasure of the wife of the former owner of the manor that became the orphanage, and managed to negotiate a deal to be allowed to read as much as he wanted.
  • Brainwashed: The Whisperer "brainsweeps" people by burying their memories and identities, and can broadcast thoughts to influence the public.
  • Calling Me a Logarithm: The second book mentions that Sticky's girlfriend dumped him for remarking on her "pulchritude." It means beauty.
  • Chance Activation: The protagonists discover the outline of a secret door in a boulder, but are unable to figure out how to open it. Finally Sticky kicks the rock in frustration, and the door swings open. The kids realize it's set up that way because Mr. Curtain likes to ram doors with his wheelchair.
  • Child Prodigy: 4 (Constance, Reynie, Sticky, Kate) in the main series, Mr. Benedict as a child in the prequel. Additionally, Rhonda Kazembe and No. 2 were this, but they grew up and thus couldn't be part of the team that Mr. Benedict wanted to form. It's also strongly hinted that Mr. Curtain was this as well.
  • Circus Brat: Kate ran away from an orphanage to a circus.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: When Rhonda Kazembe is first introduced, everything about her appearance is designed to give off this impression, but it's all a cover to hide the fact that she's actually an adult, and there as part of a Secret Test of Character.
  • Consummate Liar: Both Nicholas Benedict and Reynie Muldoon are extremely talented at deception and could probably get away with murder if they weren't both essentially good-natured. And then there's Mr. Curtain, whose entire plot is one giant deception. Things are changed a bit in the television series, in which Reynie tries to lie to Mr. Curtain, but he easily spots the signs that Reynie is lying.
  • Determinator: Milligan, particularly in the second and third books, in both of which he suffers horrible injuries trying to rescue the children but refuses to give up. Thankfully, Everybody Lives in this series.
  • Disappeared Dad: Kate's father left when she was two. It's later revealed to be Milligan, who was brainswept on a mission.
  • Do Not Adjust Your Set: Mr. Curtain's messages are broadcast on every television signal, every radio signal, every wireless signal in every language. Most people don't notice them, though, because they broadcast using children's thoughts so that they may hide insidiously in people's minds.
  • Eccentric Mentor: Mr. Benedict, who tests and fosters the unique gifts of the Society and tries to give them a safe adventure in the second book with an elaborate puzzle journey around the world.
  • Everybody Lives: Nobody is killed on either the good side or the bad guys, though all the baddies end up in jail in the end.
  • Everyone Knows Morse: Averted. When Mr. Benedict says that the kids will have to learn morse code, Kate comments that nobody knows Morse. Mr. Benedict replies that that's exactly why it's so useful to them.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: The Prisoner's Dilemma reveals that the reason S.Q. of all people is still with Mr. Curtain, despite the fact almost all of his other Executives have been abandoned, is that Curtain actually cares for him.
    Reynie: Love is the reason Mr. Curtain went to so much trouble.
  • Face Your Fears: Discussed. In explaining how his Whisperer handles fears, Mr. Curtain explains that it simply buries them by sending powerful messages which deny the fears. They come back because the only way to truly get rid of a fear is to face it and, as he says, who would ever want to do that? Later, Reynie does just that by facing and overcoming his fear of betraying his friends.
  • Family of Choice:
    • In the books, Mr. Benedict asks Constance if she would be willing to adopt him as her father. She tells him that she'll have to consider it, but is inclined to accept, and calls him Dad after the adoption. She also gains two sisters in the process — it turns out that Mr. Benedict also adopted Rhonda Kazembe and Number Two, though they too feel as if they adopted him.
    • In the show, Constance's adoption is a lot more ambiguous, at least in Season One. She responds to his offer of adoption by refusing to make it official with papers and all. Although a lack of official documentation doesn't necessarily mean that Constance isn't now Benedict's adopted daughter, it's still unclear.
  • Full-Name Basis: Especially in the early going, Constance tends to call Sticky by his full name of George Washington, knowing that it irritates him because he feels he can't live up to being named after the first President of the United States. She eases out of it as they grow more cordial with each other.
  • Growing Up Sucks: Reynie's arc in Perilous Journey applies to this. Reynie's incredible intuition as well as his experiences on the island from the first have made him more weary and suspicious of people, at an earlier age than normal. Mr. Benedict attempts to dissuade him of this habit as far as applying it to everyone, but it ends up affecting the mission when he throws away the radio connecting them to the Captain because he was unsure of his character.
  • Happily Adopted:
    • Rhonda and Number Two are Mr. Benedict's adopted daughters, and they love each other very much.
    • Reynie is Miss Perumal's adoptive son and they love each other very much.
    • In the books, Constance is adopted officially as Mr. Benedict's third daughter between books 3 and 4. In the show, Mr. Benedict offers this to Constance, but she maybe refuses to get adopted by him.
  • Hidden Purpose Test: The second exam consists of 40 multiple-choice questions that are absurdly complicated and deal with information no child would usually know. The children are told that they must correctly answer every question in order to pass the exam. The purpose of the test is not to see what the children know but how well they follow directions. At the beginning they're told to read every question before answering.
    • Reynie takes the instructions literally and reads the whole test before answering any questions, and discovers that the answer to each question is hidden in another question in the same exam.
    • Sticky passes by shocking the examiner by answering almost all of the questions correctly without figuring out the trick, missing the last few only because he ran out of time and got nervous.
    • Kate neither figures out the trick nor is able to answer the questions, but is passed because she sticks around to assist the examiner out of a tight spot.
    • Constance enters the exams never even trying to answer correctly, writing snide responses and poems instead, but is given a pass through by sheer virtue of the fact of making it there despite being only 2 years old. In the show, she is older than 2, so it can be assumed that her extraordinary willpower (which is vital against the Whisperer) got her through the test. Constance is also generally more book-smart and competent in the show, to make up for her Age Lift that would make what was her precociousness at 2 years old in the books pretty unremarkable.
  • I Know What You Fear: The Whisperer is able to detect an individual's worst fear when they're seated in it. It then sends out powerful contentment to deny that fear so that the individual will be docile and do what Mr. Curtain wants.
  • Incomprehensible Entrance Exam: The second test the kids take to join the titular society is full of dense, long-winded questions about subjects like the Nagorno-Karabakh War. Reynie passes the test when he realizes it's really about reading comprehension and following instructions - the answer to each question is found somewhere in a different question.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Milligan is revealed to be Kate's father.
  • Living Lie Detector: Both Constance Contraire and Nicholas Benedict can usually tell when someone is lying about something. Reynie's not half-bad at it either. Additionally, in The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict, Benedict encounters a helpful prosecuting attorney who has developed skills in this from practice and observation after years of work.
  • Missing Child: Mr. Benedict doesn't like risking the lives of a bunch of children but realizes that his tasks can only be done by kids. The main characters are constantly in danger. A day after deciding to join Mr. Benedict and his friends they nearly get violently kidnapped in their own home. Constance, who is an incredibly precocious two-year-old, gets electrocuted and stuffed in a bag. As if that wasn't enough, there's a man out there who is kidnapping children and taking away people's memories, while broadcasting secret messages designed to prevent anyone from searching from them. After all, "the missing aren't missing, they're only departed."
  • Named After Somebody Famous: Sticky Washington's real first name is George. As soon as she finds out, Kate lampshades this.
  • Nature Versus Nurture: The story practically compels the reader to consider the question, with the case of Nicholas Benedict and Ledroptha Curtain, who are identical twins, but turned out very differently. How much of Mr. Curtain's wicked behavior is simply his nature, and how much can be put down to the circumstances of his life? And The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict shows how very different things might have turned out for him had he not found the help of some kindhearted adults in his youth.
  • The Nondescript: Reynie Muldoon. Towards the beginning of the first book, he is described as being "...the least noticeable of boys. He was of average size, of an average pale complexion, his brown hair was of average length, and he wore average clothes." Later in the same book, he and Kate are spying on activities in the gym at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened when he is suddenly spotted by S.Q. Pedalian. However, he doesn't get caught because, as Kate explains...
    They were questioning students when Constance and I came down the hill. Nobody saw you. Jackson asked us and we told the same story. He was yelling at S.Q.: "Is that really the best you can say? An average-looking boy? An awful lot of boys are average-looking, S.Q.!" And, poor S.Q., he just kept arguing that this boy was especially average-looking. Jackson seemed ready to strangle him.
  • No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: The Whisperer. Mr. Curtain has gone to great pains to protect it and it would take a long time to rebuild it if it were destroyed.
  • Not So Stoic: Milligan was pretty introverted and reserved until he remembered that Kate was his daughter.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname:
    • Sticky and Number Two. Their real names are George and Pencilla, respectively
    • Milligan could count, too, since even he doesn't know his real name. Curiously, even once he gets his memory back (as well as access to his old household and records), he still goes by "Milligan," and his real name is never even mentioned.
  • Only One Name: All of the Recruiters / Ten Men who work for Mr. Curtain go by only one name. More interesting is the case of the Executives Jackson and Jillson. As described in The Perilous Journey, "The children had never determined if the two Executives were brother and sister, boyfriend and girlfriend, or simply partners in crime. They didn't even know them by any names other than Jackson and Jillson — which could have been first names, last names, or nicknames." There's also Milligan, who is only ever known in the series as Milligan due to it being a codename he picked up from the last fragment of his pre-amnesia memory. Even though he gets his memory back, we never learn what his name was.
  • Promotion, Not Punishment: Martina Crowe becomes an Executive after Reynie voices concerns about her to Mr. Curtain. Curtain explains that he had a talk with Martina, but his concessions that he wanted to "keep his enemies closer" and admittance that Martina denied Reynie's accusations implies that after hearing Reynie's testimony, she was promoted precisely for her negative qualities, which the ruthless Mr. Curtain prizes.
  • Psychologist Teacher: Miss Perumal, Reynie's tutor.
  • Punny Name: Puns are frequently used in the names of characters and places in the series.
    • Mr. Benedict's daughter and assistant goes only by the codename Number Two. Not only is she essentially Benedict's "number two" by serving as a right-hand woman in managing his affairs, but she has a striking physical resemblance to a number two pencil.
    • Constance Contraire is constantly contrary.
    • S.Q. Pedalian always attempts and fails to be sesquipedalian (using complex words).
    • Jackson and Jillson are a duo named after the Jack and Jill nursery rhyme, and face defeat at the hands of a pail of water making Jackson fall down and hurt his crown.
    • Ledroptha Curtain's name sounds like "drop the curtain", signifying his dramatic villainous aspirations.
    • Captain Phil Noland loves the sea and hates being ashore. "Phil" is a name derived from the Greek for "love" his name means "loves no land!"
    • The fictitious Dutch city of Thernbaakagen in The Perilous Journey sounds like "there and back again", and was possibly selected by Mr. Benedict as a site on the scavenger-hunt itinerary in-universe for this pun.
  • Room 101: The Waiting Room, which is so horrible that even those who have never been there cringe in fear of it. Sticky gets sent there, and...
    • (in the books) it's just a pitch-black room full of mud and insects; nevertheless, he is nearly broken by it. Later, Milligan gets captured and sent to it, and it turns out to work to the party's advantage. He is able to hold his breath, sink down through the mud, and escape.
    • (in the show) everything in the room is designed to trigger your anxiety, which is especially traumatic for someone as constantly anxiety-riddled as Sticky.

    Tropes that apply to the books 

  • Abusive Parents: Sticky was financially abused by his parents, who, upon realizing his gift, would make him enter contests in order to get money.
  • Agony of the Feet:
    • This happens to S.Q. Pedalian in Perilous Journey when he drops a metal box on his foot after being insulted by McCracken, leader of the Ten Men. Poor guy also closes his huge feet in doors a lot.
    • It also happens to Sticky in the first book, after he kicks a door. This isn't his fault, though— most of the secret doors in the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened are designed to be opened this way, as Mr. Curtain is fond of slamming through doors with his wheelchair. It's just that this particular door led to a very secret office of Mr. Curtain's and was protected by a numeric keypad.
  • Amoral Attorney: Strongly averted in The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict, in which the first adult that is truly helpful and kind to Nicholas Benedict is a prosecuting attorney.
  • Amusingly Short List: Number Two reads off the list of children who passed the test in the session taken by Reynie.
    "Very well, if there are no other questions, I shall read the list." The room became very quiet. "Reynard Muldoon!" the woman called. Reynie's heart leaped. There was a grumble of discontent from the seat behind him, but as soon as it passed, the room again grew quiet, and the children waited with bated breath for the other names to be called. The woman glanced up from the sheet. "That is all," she said matter-of-factly, folding the paper and tucking it away. "The rest of you are dismissed."
  • And Your Little Dog, Too!: In the first book, Reynie has a nightmare in which he is caught writing letters to his tutor Miss Perumal and Mr. Curtain tells him "Don't worry, you won't be punished! It's the Waiting Room for you — what fun you'll have there. And when you've disappeared beneath the stinking mud for good, we'll get your beloved Miss Perumal too!"
  • Anxiety Dreams: Reynie is sometimes prone to these in response to his worries about the Society's missions.
  • The Artifact: The first book has a message to the reader from Mr. Benedict at the end, saying "It has come to my attention that certain individuals wish to know my first name. If you are one of these, and if you are acquainted with the code, then I assure you the answer lies within your grasp." His first name is written in Morse code on the back of the book. For printings from after other books in the series had come out, the Morse passage is displayed below a row of pictures of their front covers. For printings from after The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict, the puzzle's a bit pointless.
  • Asleep in Class: The plot of the first book of the series revolves around the members of the titular society acting as spies for Mr. Benedict at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened. The pressures of this take their toll until one day Sticky, who has been doing very well otherwise, ends up falling asleep in class. For this, he gets teased by the Messenger student Martina Crowe, causing the entire class to laugh at him. In retaliation, Kate uses her feet to tie Martina's shoelaces to her desk, causing her to fall when she tries to get up. Constance also regularly falls asleep in class, though nobody teases her about it because she's not a good student. Also, though nobody knows it at the time, the only reason she does it is because she's only two years old and therefore of course takes regular naps.
  • Bad Is Good and Good Is Bad: In Extraordinary Education, the Spiders have grown so desperate to get at Nicholas Benedict that they decide that if push comes to shove, they'll humiliate him out in the open, even if it means getting punished for it. One of them comments that if they're going to get punished, then they had better make it good, and another says "By good you mean bad, right?"
  • Batman Gambit: The main plot of The Riddle of Ages is basically one massive Batman gambit. The Ten Men are lured to the KEEP (Key Enclosure for Enemies of the Public) on the premise that they can break out their boss, Mr. Curtain, and possibly capture Constance in the process. They are also led to believe that both Mr. Benedict and Mr. Curtain have been poisoned by a serum of Mr. Curtain's invention and that the members of the Mysterious Benedict Society are there to deliver the antidote. In fact, the KEEP is secretly a trap to imprison them and neither Mr. Benedict nor Mr. Curtain has been poisoned, instead working together to trap the Ten Men after Curtain felt sure they would try to betray him. Complicating things are the Ten Men's use of a telepath known as the Listener, and a telepath child tagging along with the Society after Constance intercepted him, requiring the older members of the Society to guard their thoughts from all three telepaths and keep them from knowing what's really going on.
  • Battered Bouquet: In The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma, Mr. Pressius—claiming that Constance is his long-lost daughter—gives Mr. Benedict a bouquet for her. His first reaction is to throw it out, but he changes his mind, deciding that it should be Constance's decision, not his own. When he gives it to her, she immediately destroys it.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: In Perilous Journey, Reynie tricks an unpleasant guard into letting him and the other members of the Society exit the house by stating that they were ordered to get some packages from the car, and then asking in a worried tone if he'll let them back in once they've got the packages. "After all, we do have permission."
  • Bear Hug: Kate inflicts this on the much smaller Constance in Perilous Journey, with Constance swept in the air and so tightly held that she is unable to speak.
  • Because I Said So: In Perilous Journey, when one of the Ten Men asks Martina Crowe why they shouldn't take Reynie and the others to Mr. Curtain in the cave, she snaps "Because I said so!", though Reynie suspects her unstated reason is because this would mean that they were no longer under her direct control.
  • Big Blackout: In The Prisoner's Dilemma, one of these hits the city of Stonetown, along with a complete radio communications breakdown. It's all thanks to Mr. Curtain, who took back control of his tidal turbines and used his specially developed signal disruption technology to kill the radios. All of this was used as cover to seize the Whisperer.
  • Calling Parents by Their Name: Even after Kate learns that Milligan is her father, she still refers to him as "Milligan." This may be either because after so long without him in her life she is just more comfortable referring to him this way, or being Kate, she simply doesn't hold with using appellations like "Dad" or "Daddy."
  • Central Theme: The first books discuss morality quite a bit with moral dilemmas like the ability to trust people in a world with so many who are cruel, and how to fight back in a moral manner. Riddle of Ages uses its Time Skip to operate with an undercurrent about the unease of growing up when you have romantic tension, increased responsibility, and your potential futures stand to take you away from your old friends.
  • Chance Activation: In the first book, the protagonists find the outline of a secret door hidden in a boulder, but are unable to figure out how to open it. Finally Sticky kicks the rock in frustration, and the door swings open. The kids realize it's set up that way because Mr. Curtain likes to ram doors with his wheelchair.
  • Computer Equals Monitor: Exploited in The Prisoner's Dilemma. Mr. Curtain's Ten Men destroy a bunch of expensive monitors in order to convince government agents that they have destroyed the Whisperer, which was captured from their employer by Mr. Benedict. The actual computers are buried deep underground, but because the government agents don't actually know how the Whisperer works, it's enough to convince them.
  • Contemplating Your Hands: In the first book, the members of the society all study the backs of their hands after Kate points out the stupidity of the phrase "I know it like the back of my hand," since most people don't know the backs of their hands very well.
    Kate: "I've always thought that was a funny expression, because how well do people really know the backs of their hands? Honestly, can anyone here tell me exactly what the back of your hand looks like?"
  • Conveniently an Orphan: Reynie fits this big time, since only kids who are "alone" pass the test.
  • Cool Teacher: Miss Perumal becomes very close with Reynie as his tutor at the orphanage, and eventually adopts him.
  • Cowardly Lion: Sticky ran away from his parents, often grows jittery or tongue-tied under pressure, and is afraid he'll never live up to his real name, George Washington. However, he always comes through for his friends, to the point that Reynie is proud to call him one of the bravest people he knows.
  • Cutting the Electronic Leash: In The Perilous Journey, Reynie throws Captain Noland's radio to communicate with the Society out of a train window as a result of his distrust toward Noland at the time. The other Society members are shocked, and Reynie's suspicions of Noland ultimately turn out to be based on a misunderstanding, making their severance of contact more of a drawback.
  • Deer in the Headlights: Mr. Benedict has narcolepsy. In The Perilous Journey, it's revealed that his spells of sleeping caused by his narcolepsy are also often accompanied by frightening hallucinations, such as the Old Hag, a terrifying woman who appears before him. Unfortunately, this particular hallucination is also often accompanied by the real condition known as sleep paralysis. In the same book, Reynie falls into a deep sleep while in an abandoned village and awakes to see a woman standing before his bed. Unable to move, he thinks he's having the same hallucination until the woman herself lunges and he realizes it's his old nemesis Martina Crowe.
  • Demoted to Extra: Almost all of the adult characters in the fourth book, which focuses on the now-older children operating in near-independence to carry out a mission after circumstances forced the adults to scatter. When they do appear, it's usually only for a chapter per adult.
  • Evil Cripple: Mr. Curtain. Subverted because he merely uses the wheelchair to hide his narcolepsy-induced bouts of sleep. Avoided altogether in the show, where he does not use a wheelchair at all.
  • Fantastic Flora: Unusual plants play a large part in the Mysterious Benedict Society's adventures, thanks in part to Sticky's particular talent for recognizing the obscure plants he's read about in his books. In the original The Mysterious Benedict Society book, he discovers the traps on Nomansan Island thanks to them being hidden by drapeweed, a rare shade loving type of ivy. Later, it's Sticky's having spotted a patch of "wild chuck-root" (Euphorbia upchucuanhae) that helps the group in their plans, when they use it to give a bellyache to pretty much everyone in the Institute so that Reynie and Sticky can get their turns in the Whisperer sooner. The second book is itself focused largely around Mr. Benedict and his evil twin's attempts to acquire another rare plant, duskwort, which has the potential to cure their narcolepsy when mixed when other substances. In its normal form, however, it's an extremely potent plant that, when burned, releases smoke that can put entire villages to sleep, but it only thrives under very specific conditions. However, it it easily overtaken by thwart-wort, a clever mimic that looks just like it, but has none of the same useful chemical properties.
  • Faux Affably Evil: The Ten Men have this down to a tee with their mask of polite mannerisms and cheerful chatter contrasting their thuggish, evil nature. "Now be a good little ducky."
  • Flashed-Badge Hijack: This is inverted from the normal manner of things in The Prisoner's Dilemma in which Milligan actually hijacks a police car by flashing his superior credentials.
  • Foreshadowing: In the first book, Reynie recognizes the school inspector Mr. Bloomburg, now working as a Helper at the Institute. As a brainswept Helper, Mr. Bloomburg is nothing like the man who lived for his children that Reynie knew, and has even forgotten he's a father. Sticky's horror that even something so dear as one's children could be buried foreshadows that the enigmatic Milligan is under the same circumstances- having forgotten his daughter, Kate after being briefly captured by Curtain's men years ago.
  • Friendly Tickle Torture: Reynie and Miss Perumal sometimes use this to wake up Miss Perumal's mother.
  • Freudian Excuse: In the first book, the Society muse on this idea upon realizing the Executives were likely brainswept "special recruits." Kate supposes that now she should find it harder to dislike them, but while Reynie says they might be rehabilitated if their memories were restored, none of the group is compelled to feel all that sympathetic toward the Executives after realizing they're victims as well.
  • Fun with Acronyms:
    • The Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened becomes L.I.V.E., which becomes, well... you know. In fact, Mr. Curtain seems to be quite fond of acronyms. Had his scheme in the first book succeeded, he would have gotten himself declared "Minister And Secretary of all The Earth's Regions," or M.A.S.T.E.R. Additionally, he made up pamphlets describing a supposed "Sudden Amnesia Disease," with sufferers known as "S.A.D. cases." In actuality, S.A.D. was just a smokescreen to attract anyone who was hearing voices from his Whisperer to Nomansan Island, where he would then use the Whisperer to wipe their memories himself, so they wouldn't be a threat.
    • The Riddle of Ages has Mr. Curtain being held at the KEEP, the Key Enclosure for Enemies of the Public, on the grounds of the former Institute.
  • Gang of Bullies: The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict has The Spiders, a group of three bullies. Rather dimwitted, they've nevertheless managed to terrify the whole orphanage. Benedict almost always manages to outsmart them, escaping their torments, though they still cause him trouble by making him remain constantly on the alert and also terrifying anyone who would be friends with him.
  • Happy Dance: In The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma, Mr. Curtain arranges for certain agents to come to the prison facility where he is conducting operations and holding the members of the society. He arranges a secret password - the answer to a question that the man previously failed on a test. Constance uses her telepathic powers to steal the question from his mind, and Sticky provides the answer, which Constance then uses to transmit to Mr. Benedict, who is the one actually at the gate. When Mr. Benedict answers the question correctly, Mr. Curtain begins jerking his wheelchair, which he doesn't actually need to get around, side-to-side.
    Then, half-closing his eyes, he began snapping his fingers and jerking his wheelchair side to side as if dancing. After a moment Reynie realized he was dancing. He was humming a tune barely audible over the sound of the wheelchair's rubber tires, which made sharp chirping noises against the floor, rather like the squeak of sneakers on a basketball court.
  • Hey, You!: Mr. Curtain refers to Number Two as "the woman" because he "refuses to refer to her by her ridiculous code name."
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: In the first book, Mr. Curtain's Whisperer invention actually provides Reynie with the encouragement he needs to resist it. The Whisperer is designed to soothe fears by simply telling those in it soothing messages. Reynie's fear, however, is of being alone, and of being so because he's betrayed his friends. It tells him that he would never betray his friends, that he's strong enough, which is exactly what Reynie needs to hear to not betray them by holding out against the Whisperer until help can come.
  • Improbable Age: It's quite a shock to the group that Constance is only two and a half (going on three; her birthday is celebrated early) in the first book.
  • I Never Told You My Name: Nicholas Benedict uses this in the prequel book The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict. It's all part of a Phony Psychic act. When he is sent to the orphanage that is the central setting of the book, he listens to the conversations between the children and uses his prodigious memory to remember who is who, then startles them by addressing them by their names, even when they've never spoken to him before.
  • The Insomniac: When the children first meet Number Two, it's quipped that she "never sleeps." In actuality, she does sleep, but only a very small amount, like maybe two-three hours a night. She has to compensate for this by eating a lot of snacks, which sometimes leaves her irritable if her blood sugar gets low. In the second book, it becomes a key plot point. When she and Mr. Benedict are captured and handcuffed in place in a cave on an island, her near-constant wakefulness allows her to work away at the fastening pin on her handcuffs and free herself. Unfortunately, in order to do this, she has to keep hidden the fact that she requires extra food in order to properly maintain her mental state. By the time she actually escapes, she is a state of delirium and no use to anyone.
  • Insult Backfire: Throughout most of The Riddle of Ages, Sticky asks his friends to call him by his real name of George, trying to become more adult by shedding his nickname. At one point, during a heated discussion, Constance refers to him as "George," it being an old habit of hers to try to needle him using his real name. Far from being insulted, he instead thanks her for remembering to use his real name, despite her obvious irritation with him.
  • I Will Punish Your Friend for Your Failure: In The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma, Reynie, Sticky, Kate and Constance are trapped by Mr. Curtain in a prison cell. Kate escapes through a window because she's the only one of them who can, but she gets caught. When she is brought back, Mr. Curtain brings out the shiny silver gloves that he uses to inflict pain by delivering a powerful electric shock and uses them on Reynie. When Kate complains that this isn't fair because Reynie wasn't the one who escaped, Mr. Curtain responds that he decides what is fair and warns that if anyone acts up again, the punishment will be extended to all four of them.
  • Jaw Drop:
    • The Mysterious Benedict Society:
      • The jaws of many of the students of the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened drop when Reynie approaches Mr. Curtain from the front while he's sitting in his favorite spot, something no student has ever done before.
      • Martina's jaw drops with disbelief after S.Q. asks Mr. Curtain if they should be asking permission to put things in people's minds.
      • Sticky's jaw drops when Reynie tells him that he should try to resist the Whisperer and stretch out the session to buy him time to signal Kate and Constance.
      • Mr. Curtain's jaw drops after, when having failed to open his secret door with the code-word "control," Reynie (correctly) suggests trying it in Dutch instead (you just add an "e" at the end.)
    • The Perilous Journey:
      • Risker nearly drowns after trying to retrieve what he thought was a diamond, but turns out to obviously be a fake because it's floating on the water. When Reynie tells him that he had no idea whether it was a real diamond or not, his jaw drops.
      • Kate's jaw drops after McCracken pulls a razor-sharp pencil out of a wall it was firmly lodged into "as easily as one might draw a thumbtack from a bulletin board."
  • Keeping the Enemy Close: In Reynie's first private conversation with the Big Bad, Mr. Curtain, Curtain expresses his suspicion of Constance, who often sleeps in classes and is rude and surly to the teachers. He tells him that he doesn't understand her and therefore he doesn't trust her. Reynie replies that this is perfectly understandable, "but you know what they say about those you don't trust." Mr. Curtain replies that no, he doesn't know what it is that they say and Reynie says "If you don't trust them, keep them close." This amuses Mr. Curtain, but also makes sense to him, and it throws suspicion off Reynie, while also serving Reynie's purpose of allowing Constance to stay at the Institute. Later, Mr. Curtain keeps around Martina Crowe on the same principle, even though Sticky tells him that she forced him to help her cheat, and he believes him.
  • Let Me Get This Straight...:
    • In the original book, the eponymous group forms a plan that's described as being "bold, ill-formed, and likely to fail, and all of them knew it." "So let me just review the plan..." states Constance and launches into a series of nitpicks about all of the problems with it. "'So I ask you again,' she concluded, 'exactly how are we supposed to distract the Helpers?' 'Just be yourself,' Kate said with a sigh."
    • In The Perilous Journey, the group, having journeyed to Portugal, finds a note telling them to go to the train station. There's a man standing nearby and Kate tells Sticky to ask the man how to get to the train station. Sticky says that he can't speak Portuguese, that he only knows how to write it. He writes out a note and hands it to the man, only for the man to make a writing motion and shake his head. "He can't read," explains Reynie.
      Kate: Let me get this straight. Sticky can write Portuguese but can't speak it, and this fellow can speak it but can't read it.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: In The Riddle of Ages, the Listener is revealed to be the aunt of Tai Li, a new member of the Society.
  • Malaproper: S.Q. Pedalian, who tends to combine real words to form new ones, for example, "astounded" and "astonished" to make "astoundished and "astonded", and also gets confused when it comes to figures of speech.
    S.Q.: A stitch in time saves time, you know.
    Martina: Nine.
    S.Q.: Nine stitches? No, Martina, I'm certain it's just one stitch.
    Martina: No, a stitch in time saves nine.
    S.Q. Exactly.
  • Made of Indestructium: In the fourth book, the KEEP, which is the high-security prison converted from the Institute, has emergency drop barriers made of a material called glastanium, which has properties of glass and the strength of titanium. The Society has several dilemmas trying to figure out the timing and alarm systems so they can progress through the KEEP while dropping the glastanium walls behind them for safety, all while negotiating the threat of the Ten Men pursuing them.
  • New Parent Nomenclature Problem: At the end of the first book, Reynie is confused on what to call his new adopted mother Miss Perumal. He believes "Mom" doesn't feel right and thus ends up calling her "Amma", which is Tamil for "Mom".
  • No Antagonist: While the books of the original series have a very obvious and real antagonist in Mr. Ledroptha Curtain, the prequel book, The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict, has an interesting twist. Mr. Collum, the orphanage director, seems like a very powerful antagonist to Nicholas. However, Mr. Collum is really just a troubled and stubborn man who doesn't understand children very well and lacks creativity. In the end, Mr. Collum turns out to be a very powerful ally once Nicholas comes to understand him and once he's able to get him on his side.
  • No Infantile Amnesia: Zig-Zagged with Constance. She remembers the events of the first book for the rest of the series despite being two years old at the time, but remembers next to nothing before that. However, those memories are also wedged in the back of her mind, not completely forgotten. It’s noted that since she does have a hyper-developed mind, her memories also work differently. Her memories are eventually brought back through the reprogrammed Whisperer in The Prisoner’s Dilemma.
    Constance: I’m three and a half, and besides, my mind is hardly typical. Isn’t that the point of all these stupid exercises?
  • Nose Tapping: This is a signature gesture of Mr. Benedict throughout the books, however, Mr. Benedict generally taps his nose to indicate that someone else is right. The Society has adopted the gesture by the fourth book.
    "Do you think that's what happens to him, (Mr. Curtain) too? Do you think that's why he's so obsessed with controlling things?" Mr. Benedict tapped his nose. "Very astute, Reynie. I've often wondered that myself."
  • No Time to Explain:
    • Reynie uses this on Joe "Cannonball" Shooter in The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey to fend off his questions about why he and the others have shown up at the dock with no adults; it works quite easily since Cannonball is the type that is always on the move and is perfectly happy to not quibble over the finer details.
    • In the first book, Rhonda Kazembe uses this when Reynie asks how she could possibly have the answers to the test (the second in the series of Mr. Benedict's tests.) Of course, it's technically true since the test was only about a minute away from beginning, though the real truth was that her very presence there was part of a Secret Test of Character and Reynie would have been automatically disqualified had he agreed to cheat by making use of her test answers.
  • Obfuscating Disability: Mr. Curtain uses one to hide another, using a wheelchair and reflective sunglasses to cover up sleeping episodes from his narcolepsy.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Early on in the first book, Reynie decides when he gets to the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened to give the impression of knowing as little as possible because the less you know, the less people suspect you, and perhaps the more they tell you.
  • "Open!" Says Me: There's a curious variation. While the doorways leading to some of the secret, but not super-secret areas in the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened are not locked, they're actually designed in such a way that they're opened only by ramming or kicking, as Reynie discovers when he grows so frustrated in trying to open one of them that he kicks it. The reason for this is that Mr. Curtain enjoys ramming through doors in his souped-up wheelchair. The super-secret areas, however, are protected by numeric keypads, and no amount of kicking will get you through them. This is something that Sticky discovers to his chagrin before the keypad is spotted.
  • Orphanage of Fear: In The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict, the new orphanage that the titular protagonist is sent to isn't exactly awful in that nobody is starved, nor really abused, but it's certainly not a nice place to be either. Children that wake up screaming from a nightmare are forced to wear a Dunce Cap and most of the kids spend their days in fear of a Gang of Bullies called "The Spiders" whom the adults are too oblivious too do anything about. Nicholas seeks a way to escape his situation, until he realizes that as a genius, his efforts would be better spent finding a way to make conditions at the orphanage better for everyone.
  • Out-of-Context Eavesdropping: After pretending to run away from home, Sticky overhears part of a conversation of his parents in which he hears the phrase "better off" and believes that they feel they're better off without him. This is the final straw that causes him to truly run away. At the end of the first book, he learns that in fact what his parents had said was that perhaps he was better off without them because of how badly they had messed things up.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: In The Perilous Journey, Kate manages a spur-of-the-moment one by removing her hair from its ponytail, wearing Sticky's spectacles, not wearing her usual red bucket and moving in a shuffling gait that is completely at odds with her normal swiftness. While it ultimately doesn't fool Jillson, it does buy the Mysterious Benedict Society time.
  • The Password Is Always "Swordfish": Early on in the first book, Mr. Curtain tells Reynie to "remember, control is always the key." Later, the group has to figure out the password for the keypad on Mr. Curtain's wheelchair and Mr. Curtain's maniacal ravings prompt Reynie to believe that it might be "control." As it turns out, it isn't, but Mr. Curtain's love of his home country of Holland leads him to believe that the password might be in Dutch. Since Sticky knows most languages, he asks him, and it turns out you just have to add an "e" to the end of "control." They do so, and it's correct.
  • Phony Psychic: In The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict, Nicholas Benedict uses his prodigious memory and talent for observing human behavior patterns to pass himself off as psychic at the orphanage at Rothschild's End. His tricks include quickly memorizing the names of everyone there, memorizing the entire layout of the building and seeming predict future events based on his observations of past behavior. He easily fools the younger children, though the older ones remain skeptical.
  • Photographic Memory:
    • Both George "Sticky" Washington and Mr. Benedict possess an eidetic memory and are able to quickly scan through through books and then quote the contents from memory. Mr. Benedict is only shown demonstrating it in the prequel book The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict, but it does bring to mind a scene from the original book. Reynie is in Mr. Benedict's study, admiring all the books there, and asks Mr. Benedict if he's read all the books. Mr. Benedict replies "My dear boy, what do you think?"
    • Rhonda also has this, though perhaps not as strong, as she directly quotes a message from Curtain in the second book to let the Society see if there is a clue in the wording of it.
    • Seeing as he's Mr. Benedict's identical twin, it's very likely that Mr. Curtain has one as well, though it's never stated.
    • It's possible that these characters also have eidetic memories in the show, but it's not shown as clearly.
  • Pitiful Worms: In the first book, after realizing that the members of The Mysterious Benedict Society are spies, Mr. Curtain refers to them and children in general as gnats that are easy to crush.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: The Perilous Journey has a puzzle in which Mr. Benedict provides the society a clue with a total of six lines, the first letter of each of which spells out the word "cannon." After Reynie solves the puzzle, he explains it to Kate, telling her to "Go down the hints—read the first letter of each line." At this point, the reader is supposed to go back a couple pages and do the same thing, assuming they haven't already figured out the puzzle themselves. This obviously isn't as easy to do in an audiobook, so instead in the audiobook, the lines of the puzzle are instead re-read by the narrator, with each letter said afterwards, and then the answer "cannon."
  • Psychic Static: By the time of The Riddle of Ages, Reynie, Kate, and Sticky have all become adept at filling their minds with things like thoughts of S.Q. Pedalian's big feet in order to prevent Constance from reading their thoughts. Constance, in turn, has been working hard herself to avoid accidentally reading their thoughts. She also employs the technique against the Listener, a mysterious new psychic opponent.
  • Punny Name:
    • Ledroptha Curtain is a fairly obvious pun on "drop the curtain".
    • Number Two resembles a pencil, and her real name is Pencilla.
    • In The Prisoner's Dilemma, Constance sends Reynie a telepathic message with a call number for a library book to help him and the others find her. Sticky, who has memorized the card catalog, recognizes it as belonging to a book titled The Myth of ESP by "Perry Normal."
  • The Radio Dies First: In the second book, The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey, Reynie Muldoon (the main protagonist) actually pitched the radio out of a train because he mistakenly did not consider the person on the other end to be trustworthy.
  • Really 17 Years Old: In Constance’s backstory in The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner’s Dilemma, she (two years old at the time) breaks out of her orphanage to run away, hitching a bus. Due to being such a young girl alone on a bus, she lies to the elderly woman asking her about it that she’s “small for her age”, to which the also-short woman says “So am I!”
  • Red Baron: The various names of the Ten Men, including Sharpe, Garrote and the leader, McCracken. It's never specified for absolute certain that these aren't their real names, but it seems most likely that they're code names. Interestingly and fittingly, many of the Ten Men have names related to pain and torture, such as Hertz and Garrotte. Given that many characters have punny names, they may or may not be real names.
  • Reverse Telescopic Vision: In the first book, Kate reveals to the other members of the Society that her kaleidoscope is actually a spyglass in disguise. Constance tries it out, but complains to Kate that it's a terrible spyglass, that it makes everything look far away.
    Kate turned the spyglass around and handed it back to her.
  • Rhymes on a Dime: Constance Contraire, when writing her poetry. In describing the poem that she wrote about donut holes, Mr. Benedict mentions recalling a "particularly felicitous rhyme between 'flaky bereft' and 'bakery theft'."
  • The Runaway: Three of the four main characters are runaways. Constance was an orphan who ran away from the orphanage in order to avoid the Ten Men. Sticky ran away from overbearing parents and Kate joined the circus after her father disappeared. In the end, Constance gets adopted, Sticky goes back to his very worried parents, and Kate's Disappeared Dad gets a Luke, I Am Your Father.
  • Running Gag: Number Two's resemblance to a pencil is remarked upon before we even learn the code name to address her by, and the subject is carried on throughout the series, culminating in the reveal that her name is Pencilla.
  • School for Scheming: The Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened.
  • Secret Test of Character:
    • The kids are told that if they bring more than one Number Two pencil to the second exam, or that if they are late, they would automatically fail. Outside the test building is a girl begging for help because she dropped her pencil down a sewer grate. The protagonist breaks his pencil and gives the girl the other half. As an additional test, the girl then claims to have a cheat sheet, which she offers to share.
    • Additionally, after completing the first test, Reynie wants to call his tutor, Miss Perumal as instructed to let her know everything is okay, but is told there is no phone. After a series of additional deceptions regarding this in which Reynie stands firm, he is informed that Miss Perumal has already been contacted by the instructor, and given a message that could only be from her. It's later revealed that these deceptions were actually a test of his character, to see if he would stand firm, though by the time this is revealed, he had already figured that out on his own anyway.
    • The students that fail the tests are given donuts as a consolation before being sent on their way; those that pass are given nothing because the examiners want to test how well their minds work when they're tired and hungry.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness:
    • Sticky is sometimes subject to this and once had a girlfriend break up with him because he remarked upon her pulchritude. (She wouldn't believe him when he said that it means "beauty.")
    • S.Q. Pedalian's name is a Stealth Pun on "Sesquipedalian", as he often uses needlessly complicated words (for him, at least) and always gets them jumbled up before using a simpler word.
  • Shoot Out the Lock: In Prisoner's Dilemma, the Ten Men do a high-tech version of this, using their sophisticated laser pointers (that shoot actual laser beams) to disable locking mechanisms.
  • Silent Treatment: In The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict, after Nicholas Benedict outwits the plans of the Gang of Bullies known as the Spiders to initiate him by giving him a Swirlie, they give him the silent treatment and force all of the other children at the Orphanage of Fear to do so too. After John Cole becomes his friend and defies their ban on talking to him, the silent treatment is extended to him as well.
  • Sleep Paralysis Creature: Nicholas Benedict has narcolepsy, often causing him to fall asleep at inappropriate moments, usually triggered by strong emotion, often laughter. In the second book, The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey, he reveals that his sleeping fits are often accompanied by terrible nightmares, followed by fits of sleep paralysis, and with these, a feeling of weight on his chest accompanied by a nightmarish creature known as the "Old Hag." He then jokes to the protagonist character, Reynie, that he's shook hands and made peace with her, though what he means to say is that he's grown used to the hallucinations such that they no longer trouble him as they once did. Later on, during a lull in the perilous journey of the book's title, Reynie crashes in a bed in a shack on an island and experiences what he believes to be this, though when he finally rouses himself to full consciousness, it turns out to be Martina Crowe, an Executive of the Big Bad Ledroptha Curtain who has caught up to him.
  • Snowball Fight: The first book ends with the members of the Mysterious Benedict Society preparing to have one, with Sticky and Constance on one side and Reynie and Kate on the other. Kate has a plan which involves her directing Reynie to make carefully prepared snowballs and her throwing them because she's the physically gifted one, though Reynie asks her to let him throw some too as it's part of the fun and she reluctantly agrees. Also, Sticky asks if they're ready for "ignominious defeat," and Kate has to get the definition of "ignominious" from Reynie. Hearing that it means "shameful" just makes her more spurred on.
  • So What Do We Do Now?: The Prisoner's Dilemma ends with the members of the society discussing this. With their big mission complete and the Big Bad finally firmly in jail and out of power, Constance Contraire in particular worries that their lives are about to become very boring and they won't even have anything to talk about, other than the weather. Reynie Muldoon, however, ever the optimist, thinks that this isn't necessarily a bad thing, noting that it's a beautiful day outside.
  • Spy Speak: This is used from time to time, but Kate in particular revels in it and likely would use it a lot more often if she could.
  • Stealth Pun:
    • One you really have to be paying attention to get, but in the first book, Kate drops her bucket, loaded with water, on top of Jackson's head, sending him tumbling backwards down a ladder and knocking over Jillson as well. This is, of course, a reference to the classic nursery rhyme "Jack and Jill went up the hill, to fetch a pail of water. Jack fell down and broke his crown and Jill came tumbling after."
    • The Dutch city on the scavenger-hunt itinerary in the second book is called Thernbaakagen, which sounds like "there and back again".
  • Surprise Multiple Birth: In The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey, Reynie reads letters which had been written by Mr. Benedict's parents before his birth, in which they make references to their "baby" in the singular. The readers already know that Mr. Benedict has a twin brother, Mr. Curtain.
  • Swirlie: In The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict, upon his arrival at his latest Orphanage of Fear, Benedict is warned by a kindly boy named John Cole that there's a Gang of Bullies called "The Spiders" who have already heard of his arrival and are planning to subject him an "initiation," to be held in one of the orphanage's bathrooms. He figures out pretty quickly that this initiation is this trope or something like it, and being a Child Prodigy several orders of magnitude smarter than any gang of bullies, comes up with a plan on the fly to avoid it. When the bullies encounter him alone in an upstairs hallway, he manages to convince them that the orphanage director is on his way back, but he's already heard about the initiation and he's very excited about it. He tells them he'll be waiting for them at the bathroom the next day, with cookies. Of course, he makes enemies of them, since he most certainly does not arrive with cookies the next day, but as he explains to John, he felt it was worth it because he'd already been the butt of bullying at several past orphanages and wanted to take a stand.
  • Tagalong Kid: Tai Li in the fourth book is a five-year-old boy who joins the group after Constance guides him to the Society, recognizing him as a fellow telepath, and one in danger from the Ten Men. From that point, the group is forced to bring him along during their mission, even though both he and Constance are a risk to them, as there is a third, rival telepath targeting them and trying to find out what they are doing. Tai's innocence and lack of control over his abilities is definitely the bigger challenge for the group, however.
  • Take a Third Option:
    • In The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey, Milligan is chained to a beam with his only weapon being a laser pointer that has only one shot. He is given the choice of either surrendering peacefully or using his one shot to attack one of the Ten Men. He takes a third option by using the one shot to break the chain holding him.
    • Additionally, in the opening of The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma, the members of the society are faced with the titular dilemma, split into two groups with the choice to either betray each other or remain loyal, without knowing what the other group has chosen. In the end, they all take a third option: they escape.
  • Take Over the World: Mr. Curtain's goal is to take over the world, manipulating people's opinions and memories with his Whisperer so that they accept him as M.A.S.T.E.R. (Minister And Secretary of all The Earth's Regions.)
  • Talk About the Weather: At the end of The Prisoner's Dilemma, all of the members of the Mysterious Benedict Society have mixed feelings because they're all moving to their own rooms in separate houses, though they'll all still be close together. Though their lives are free of the danger of the Big Bad Mr. Curtain, who has been imprisoned, they've also lost some of the excitement of their secret missions. They agree to continue holding society meetings, though Constance isn't sure what they would have to talk about. Kate says she's sure they'll find something to talk about, and Constance asks "Like what? The stupid weather?"
    "Why not?" Reynie said, and he chuckled to himself, for just then he was feeling as happy as he ever had. "It's going to beautiful day, Constance. It's springtime!" And indeed, out along Mr. Benedict's fence, the roses were blooming.
  • Team Spirit: At the very beginning of their adventures, Mr. Benedict tells the Society that the most important thing is that they must, in all things, be a team. And, indeed, it is only by being a team that they are able to eventually defeat Mr. Curtain.
  • There Are No Rules: The Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened would like you to believe this, though everything they frame as a freedom has limitations tacked on in the same sentence.
  • There Is No Try: In the original book, the Constance snaps this at Sticky when he uses his nervousness as an excuse for the fidgety gestures he makes that she mistakes for gestures that are supposed to indicate test answers in their cheating on Mr. Curtain's tests.
    Constance: Every time you have a real itch, I get the wrong answer.
    Sticky: Sorry, I get itchy when I'm nervous. I'll try to do better.
    Constance: Don't just try. Actually do better.
    Sticky: Hey, my fidgeting isn't the only problem, you know! It would help if you had practiced your Morse Code at all!
    Kate: Now, children. Let's not quibble about who's to blame. Blaming is wrong. The important thing is to get along with one another, so we may have better success cheating.
  • Thought-Aversion Failure: Mr. Curtain has programmed the Whisperer to detect surface thoughts because he knows that fears lurk close to the surface and are easy to detect. When they take their first turns in the Whisperer, Reynie and Sticky try to hide certain stuff, as they're afraid that Mr. Curtain can detect their thoughts. It's fortunate that he can't, as they have no success in hiding them.
    Reynard Muldoon, what do you fear most? Spiders, Reynie lied, trying to regain some control. Spiders made Reynie nervous, but he wasn't afraid of them. Certainly they were not what he feared most. That was something he didn't want the Whisperer to know. But responding to Reynie's involuntary answer, the Whisperer said, Don't worry. You are not alone.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Milligan's refusal to kill an enemy, even if they deserve it because If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him!.
    Kate: Are you kidding? These guys are monsters! If that one fell into the water it would serve him right!
    Milligan: You might think you mean that. But you'd feel differently if it were to happen and you were responsible. We're not like them, Kate. That's the entire point of trying to stop them.
  • Throwing Off the Disability: Mr. Curtain usually travels around in a souped-up wheelchair, even though he is perfectly capable of walking. The wheelchair, as well as the sunglasses he typically wears, are used to hide that he has narcolepsy and falls asleep upon becoming very angry. (This, and he just enjoys it as a fast means of getting around.) The members of the Society are all very shocked when he rises from his chair after they confront him, but are able to get him to fall asleep by angering him. Later, in The Perilous Journey, when the members of the Society are researching his movements, they learn that he visited a museum and attempted to steal papers from it, pretending be his twin brother, Mr. Benedict. They contacted the police, but when they got there, Mr. Curtain unexpected leapt from his wheelchair and used a device to shock them.
  • Time Skip: The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Riddle of Ages takes place several years after the previous book The Prisoner's Dilemma, after Reynie, Sticky and Kate are adults and Constance is a preteen.
  • Totalitarian Utilitarian: Ledroptha Curtain. He just wants to control everyone so that they can be happy, at least he believes this to be so.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The trailer for the television series based on the books gives away that Mr. Benedict and Mr. Curtain are twins, even though in the TV series, this is intended as a major shock and surprise, just like in the books.
  • Trilogy Creep: The main series featuring Reynie, Sticky, Kate and Constance could be considered a trilogy, as the other two books were a prequel set well before their adventures and a supplementary book of puzzles and games and such. However, on September 24, 2019, a new title was released featuring more of the adventures of the Mysterious Benedict Society as well as a new member, The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Riddle of Ages.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: An unusual case in the fourth book. It's made explicit that part of the reason the older children are so stressed-out and awkward around each other is that they're experiencing some budding romantic feelings for each other now that they're older, as Constance has the burden of knowing through her telepathy that all three have harbored crushes on another member. However, it's never specified who has been attracted to whom, and so the tension exists but without a defined pairing in any direction.
  • Vagueness Is Coming: This appears in the first book as "the thing to come." Mr. Benedict and his crew are already aware that "the Sender" is the cause of the phenomenon known as the Emergency and due to a number of factors have good reason to believe that something much worse is coming. Due to their limited ability to gather information up until the arrival of the main characters (the titular society), they don't know what this "thing to come" is, only that for them and those like them whose minds have a powerful love of truth, it is likely to be very bad indeed.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Dr. Curtain's respond to Reynie's Kirk Summation is a completely breaking his confident veneer to deliver a rage-filled rant that Reynie doesn't know anything of what he's been through and that he's not someone hurting looking to be healed. This is proven wrong, as per Reynie's observation, when his narcolepsy triggers. Sticky thinks it was triggered by his anger, Reynie however thinks it was the emotional vulnerability of being seen for what he is. Constance thinks the results are effective either way.
  • Walk on Water: Referenced in The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey. When the kids follow Milligan despite his warning, Reynie uses the excuse that they figured the stairs were sound because they held his weight. Milligan replies that he walks lightly, so they should never let that be their guide. It is stated that Reynie isn't sure whether or not Milligan is teasing - "He wouldn't be entirely surprised to learn that Milligan could walk on water."
  • Well, This Is Not That Trope: In The Riddle of Ages, Tai Li asks Crawlings if he's really going to drink the serum, knowing that Mr. Benedict needs a dose of it to cure himself. Crawlings gazes at him, seeing his eyes wide with innocent disbelief.
    There are times when even the worst of men—the most selfish, the most vindictive, the cruelest of men—need only to be confronted with the wisdom of small children to be reminded of the children they once were themselves; to be reminded, in short, of what is to imagine a world of magic and kindness rather than a world of wickedness and violence. This was not one of those times. Crawlings winked at Tai and drank the beaker down.
  • Wham Line: Mr. Curtain has one towards the end of the first book, revealing the extent of the improvements to his Whisperer machine: it has recently been made capable of brainsweeping people even if they aren't seated in it.
    Mr. Curtain: Obviously, Reynard, you were unaware of the extent of my improvements. You needn't be seated in my lovely Whisperer to experience its most powerful effect. In this room you are all quite within range.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: Stonetown is apparently somewhere on the east coast of the United States, given that it borders the Atlantic Ocean. (It's definitely the United States, as Sticky's real name is said to be George Washington, the "same as the father of our country.") It also apparently it is at least somewhat to the north, given that it gets cold enough for snow not be unexpected in winter. Other than that, though, the details of the exact location are left a bit vague.
  • Wistful Amnesia: People brainswept by the Whisperer tend to be confused or morose and at least subconsciously feel as if something is wrong with them. Mr. Curtain is revealed to have a program in the works to round up these cases by framing their amnesia as a disorder he can help them with.
  • Worth It: In The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict, this is Nicholas Benedict's reason for humiliating the orphanage Gang of Bullies who try to subject him to an "initiation" likely involving a Swirlie at the beginning of the book. He knows it's likely just going to make him their enemy for however long they all might remain at the orphanage, but after being the butt of bullies for so long his past orphanages, he decides that this one victory is worth it.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Mr. Curtain, though he prefers to let his Executives and Recruiters / Ten Men do the dirty work.
  • You, Get Me Coffee:
    • When not having them do actual work, Mr. Curtain likes to have his various minions, including his Messengers, Executives, Recruiters and Ten Men do this sort of thing.
      Then S.Q. was removing their blindfolds and pressing the intercom button. "Reynard Muldoon and Stic . . . er, George Washington here for their sessions, Mr. Curtain!" Mr. Curtain’s voice came through a speaker: "They must wait. Meanwhile, bring me more juice."
    • Reynie himself exploits this trope by bringing Mr. Curtain ribbons to use as bookmarks for his journal while his friends spy on key pages from their telescope. Mr. Curtain is flattered, considering it to be "a proper attention that had been lacking", and even inserts the bookmarks at Reynie's request, giving the group a view of the journal to be sealed into Sticky's memory.
  • Younger Than They Look and Wise Beyond Their Years: Constance.
  • You Remind Me of X: In the first book, Mr. Curtain tells Reynie that he reminds him of himself as a child, which can hardly be pleasing for Reynie.
  • You Won't Feel a Thing!: One of the Recruiters tells the children "If you children stay nice and still, I promise this won't hurt a bit." The other Recruiter that is with him suggests "Oh, come on, let's tell the truth for once. Just for kicks." The first Recruiter then admits "All right, the truth is that this will hurt. A lot. But if you hold still, I promise it won't hurt for long."

    Tropes that apply to the series
  • Adaptation Expansion: The Disney+ series includes scenes from the point of view of Mr. Benedict and his team while the kids are at the L.I.V.E. Institute, expanding their story while also taking some load off of the lead child actors.
  • Adaptational Heroism: Martina Crowe, who was simply another antagonist in the books that had a strong rivalry with Kate and in later books becomes hellbent on revenge, is bossy and somewhat aggressive in the TV series, but ends up as Kate's friend, and even after Kate frames Martina for intruding in the labs, in the ending fight, she saves Kate because Kate owned up to the truth to Mr. Curtain, refusing to let her take the fall.
  • Adaptational Name Change: The Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened becomes The Learning Institute for Veritas and Enlightenment in the show.
  • Age Lift: In the first book, Constance is only two years old, but is incredibly gifted for her age and is able to read, write, and speak at the level of a typical nine-year old. Due to the difficulty of finding someone who could feasibly play that, the show cast ten-year old Marta Kessler and completely changed her backstory.
  • His Name Really Is "Barkeep": In the books, Number Two's real name is Pencilla. In the show, she tells Miss Perumal that "Number Two" really is her name, and in the last episode of Season 2, her mother addresses her as "Number". The other siblings have similarly abnormal names.
  • Kirk Summation: Reynie tries to talk Dr. Curtain down from continuing his plan after trying to trigger his narcolepsy fails. He argues that Curtain is a good person that cares about people, who's hurting but doesn't want to admit it, and that if he could see that in himself he'd see that he doesn't have to seize control over the world and let his past define him. Curtain does not take it well and suffers a narcoleptic episode. After he wake up, Mr. Benedict tries the same thing stating that Curtain has never understood that it's wrong to control people, to which Curtain just gives dismissive snark like it's a platitude.
  • Living Lie Detector: Mr. Curtain has cultivated this ability and when Reynie says that he's not working with anyone, recites back the list of physical signs to him that explain why he's lying, including the syncopated breathing, the perspiration on his forehead, the darting of his eyes, and ever so slight dilation of his pupils.
  • Named by the Adaptation: In the television series, S.Q. states his full name as being "Shepard Quaid." In the books, his name was S.Q. Pedalian (wordplay on sesquipedalian) and it was never specified what S.Q. was short for. This also accommodates S.Q.'s Adaptational Backstory Change and Adaptation Personality Change. Instead of being Curtain's follower who is often Malaproper thanks to getting brainswept over and over again by Curtain (hence the S.Q. Pedalian pun in his name), S.Q. here is simply Curtain's son; he does not get brainswept over and over again, so he does not suffer from the Malaproper problem, unlike his book counterpart. Curtain keeps him in line through sheer parental neglect and abuse.
  • Related in the Adaptation: In the television series, S.Q. is Mr. Curtain's adopted son.
  • Sequel Hook:
    • At the end of Season 1, Rather than getting arrested, Curtain escapes, giving the plot a less neat resolution as well as a more definite Sequel Hook for the second season.
    • At the end of Season 2, Doctor Curtain reveals to Mr. Benedict that he's discovered that they have a sister. "And she is not as nice as I am."


Video Example(s):


You're a Liar, Then

In the television series of "The Mysterious Benedict Society," Dr. Curtain brings Reynard "Reynie" Muldoon to his office, demanding to know what his purpose at the Institute. Reynie claims he's only there to learn, but Dr. Curtain calls him out on his lie, then proceeds to explain that he's cultivated a talent for spotting a liar and explains the various signs which prove Reynie is lying. He asks Reynie where he was the night before and Reynie tries again, trying to compose a believable story, but Dr. Curtain still isn't biting and declares him a liar.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / LivingLieDetector

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