At first it seems as if 14-year-old Violet, 12-year-old Klaus, and their baby sister, Sunny, have finally had a turn of good luck when they meet their newest guardian. Dr. Montgomery, or Uncle Monty as he prefers to be called, is a herpetologist. One whole room in his house is filled with snakes of all kinds, including some very deadly specimens. But despite his slithery interests, Uncle Monty is a fun-loving and generous caretaker who treats the Baudelaire orphans with love, respect, and kindness. But as anyone who's read the first book in this series knows, good fortune won't stay long with the Baudelaires. For starters Count Olaf returns, disguised in a manner that doesn't fool the kids for a minute -- though they can't seem to convince any adults. Then Uncle Monty dies (supposedly after being bitten by one of his highly poisonous snakes) although the kids are convinced he was murdered by Olaf. And of course, Olaf and his sideshow cronies have dreamed up yet another plan to get their hands on the Baudelaire fortune.
The plot has holes big enough to drive a truck through and more than a few contrivances come into play. Nonetheless, there is something irresistibly alluring about all the bad luck and mayhem that befalls these fast-thinking children, who use their inventiveness, book smarts, and bite-ability to survive. Equally engaging is the mysterious narrator, Snicket, who taunts, tempts, and teases his way through the tale, revealing intriguing snippets of his own life and providing an ongoing lesson in the nuances of language.