Book Review of The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner’s Dilemma by Trenton Lee Stewart

What My Kids Read Review of The Mysterious Benedict Society and The Prisoner's Dilemma by Trenton Lee Stewart The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner’s Dilemma is the final book in the Mysterious Benedict Society series. My review of the first book, The Mysterious Benedict Society, is here. My review of the second book, The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey can be found here. This final book is an exciting and fitting conclusion to the series. The themes of friendship, loyalty, and choosing to do right even when it is hard are just as strong at the end of this series as they were in the first two books. But, as with the other two books, the children are on their own to save the day. In this final book, they learn to lean more on adults, but they still end up saving the day with their wits.

My Mom-Meter gives this particular book an overall safety rating of 2 (Moderately Safe) for ages 8 and up.

Click here to skip to a Plot summary

Click here to skip straight to Potential Discussion Points

Category ratings (click on the category to see specifics):

Alcohol/DrugsSafe

BullyingSafe

Disrespectful AttitudesSafe

LanguageSafe

Magic/SupernaturalModerately Safe

Romance/SexSafe

Scary ThemesModerately Safe

ViolenceModerately Safe

Plot: You can find a good plot summary of The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner’s Dilemma at Wikipedia here.

Potential Discussion Points for parents in The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner’s Dilemma:

  • The book begins with a description of the famous “Prisoner’s Dilemma:”

    “Two criminals are arrested, but the police lack the evidence for a major conviction, so they put the prisoners in separate rooms and offer each one the same deal. If one prisoner betrays his friend and testifies against him, while the other prisoner remains silent, the traitor goes free and his partner receives a ten-year prison sentence…They can both remain silent. But if they do that, then both are sentenced to six months in jail for a minor charge. [If they both betray each other] Then they both receive five-year sentences… So the dilemma is that each prisoner must choose to betray the other one or remain silent – without knowing what the other one is going to do.”

    What would you do? How did the children solve this dilemma when they were actually in prison? Did they only think of themselves?

  • Kate and the boys eavesdrop on Mr. Benedict twice in the book. Why do they do that? Throughout the story, they seem like they do not trust the adults to make good decisions for them – or to tell them things at the right time.Kate tells the boys, “chances are we won’t be told anything about it right? It’s for our own protection, they’ll say – and that’s probably true – but aren’t you curious? Don’t you want to know?” Were they right to mistrust? Did it ever work out well when they did something without checking with the adults?
  • Mr. Benedict says “One’s mind is one’s most valuable, private possession. I would no sooner break into your memories, Mr. Gaines, than I would break into your home.” Do you agree with that statement? What do you think is your most important possession?
  • Why won’t Mr. Benedict just use the Whisperer on his enemies, wiping their mind clear, and “programming” them for good?
  • Mr. Benedict suffers from narcolepsy, and he has the ability to cure it using The Whisperer, but instead, he spends most of his time restoring the memories of people his brother had brainwashed. What would you do if you could cure a disease or take care of the mess your brother had made?
  • S.Q. chooses to save Mr. Curtain and he stays with him even after Mr. Curtain had been so mean. Why do you think S.Q. stayed?
  • Even after all the evil Mr. Curtain did and tried to do, Mr. Benedict visits his brother in jail, hoping that he will soften in time. Do you think Mr. Benedict is wasting his time?
  • Kate tells Reynie “You aren’t responsible for all of us…We’re all responsible for each other, right?” Reynie had felt like he had to be smart enough for everyone. Do you ever feel like you have to be in control to be safe? What makes you feel safe?

Alcohol/Drugs: None

Bullying:

  • Constance “peppered” Reynie’s toothbrush to get revenge.

Disrespectful Attitudes:

  • Four year old Constance rolls her eyes twice.

Language:

  • Constance uses “dull goon” in one of her complaining poems.
  • Constance says “stupid” many time throughout the book.
  • Kate says “stupid of us.”
  • Someone says “what the devil.”
  • “Creep” is used as an insult a few times.
  • “Dumb” is used several times.
  • “Dopey” is used once.
  • “Ninnies” is said once.
  • Mr. Curtain says “You fool.”

Magic/Supernatural:

  • Hypnosis is mentioned many times throughout the book. It is mentioned as a purely psychological treatment.
  • Constance has “mental telepathy.” She can put her words or images in someone else’s mind.
  • Constance has the ability to mentally hypnotize someone to do something they don’t want to do. She puts thoughts in Sticky’s mind and he suddenly announces that he doesn’t like his favorite flavor of ice cream and that Constance can have it. Another time, Constance concentrates on making a Ten Man choose a foolish decision. It makes her terribly ill.
  • The Whisperer is used by Mr. Benedict to retrieve people’s memories. He uses it on Constance to retrieve her memories of where she came from.
  • Self-hypnosis is mentioned.
  • Constance uses her psychic powers to cure Mr. Benedict’s narcolepsy.

Romance/Sex: None

Scary Themes:

  • Constance remembers Ten Men coming to get her from the orphanage, and she ran away and hid in a library.
  • Constance has “napmares” where she dreams Ten Men are chasing her.
  • The Ten Men look like polite businessmen, but they carry ten deadly weapons in their briefcases (and the briefcases are also weapons). They hunt for the children throughout the story.
  • While disoriented by the restoration of her memories, Constance runs away and everyone searches for her.
  • The children are captured by the Ten Men and held as prisoners for Mr. Curtain.
  • Mr. Curtain threatens to brainsweep the children.
  • Mr. Curtain rigs up the computers for the Whisperer to explode if anyone tries to disable them.
  • McCracken threatens to hurt the children with shockwatches.
  • Mr. Curtain uses a remote control to drive the Salamander and nearly runs Kate down.
  • A large metal beam nearly falls on S.Q. and Mr. Curtain. S.Q. saves Mr. Curtain’s life.

Violence:

  • Mr. Curtain uses silver gloves that send horrible pain to the person he touches. He uses them to touch Reynie as punishment for Kate running away.
  • The children trick a Ten Man and tie him up and then tie the other end of the rope to a desk that is hanging out of the window. He eventually gets away and comes for them.
  • Milligan’s tranquilizer gun jams. He uses his gloves hands to grab shockwatches off of a Ten Man. Ten Men throw pencils like darts, use shockwatches to shock, and use handkerchiefs to knock people out.
  • Milligan fights McCracken, the toughest of the Ten Men. Kate comes to her father’s rescue, throwing everything she has in her bucket at McCracken and then sends her pet falcon to attack McCracken.
  • In order to save the children, Milligan throws himself off of the roof and on top of McCracken.
  • Rhonda and Number 2 drive two vehicles in a fight against a Ten Man.

From a ten-year-old’s perspective: “If you liked the first two books, you will definitely like this book. The series is full of mysterious and excitement.”

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The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma
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Comments

  1. Addie read these this summer. She liked them.

So what do you think?

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