The Mysterious Benedict Society

I’ve been really curious about the Mysterious Benedict Society series ever since I saw the first book on the bookstore shelf. I lucked out on a copy of the first volume last year, and then got the second volume as a Christmas present from an officemate, and at the start of the year, I figured it was about time I read the books.

The Mysterious Benedict Society (illustrated by Carson Ellis) and The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey (illustrated by Diana Sudyka) are bestselling books by Trenton Lee Stewart, released in 2007 and 2008 respectively.

The book features the Mysterious Benedict Society, a group of kids composed of four exceptional children: Reynie Muldoon, Kate Wetherall, Sticky Washington, and Constance Contraire.


from left: Reynie, Kate, Constance, Sticky

Reynie is an orphan with a knack for logic and problem-solving; Kate is a resourceful and athletic girl who was abandoned by her father and spent part of her life in a circus company; Sticky is a runaway with prodigious intelligence and amazing photographic memory; while Constance is a tiny and extremely stubborn girl with a penchant for rhyming (and sleeping!).

The four separately spot an ad in the newspaper that states:

“Are you a gifted child looking for special opportunities? If so, please take our tests to see if you’ll qualify.”

And so, after a series of special tests, the four are selected by the eccentric Mr. Benedict to carry out his mission, to thwart an evil villain named Ledroptha Curtain, from carrying out his plans for world domination.

The four go undercover as students at Curtain’s school, the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened (L.I.V.E.), where they uncover the villain’s plot to take over the world using subliminal messages through a brainwashing machine called “The Whisperer.”

Using their ingenuity, the four fly under the radar of Curtain’s henchmen (henchkids? hehe), foil Curtain’s plot. They also learn more about themselves and their abilities, and establish a strong friendship within the group.

In the second book, The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey, the group sets out on a grand adventure planned by Mr. Benedict, but plans go awry when they discover their mentor has been kidnapped by the escaped Ledroptha Curtain.

Curtain’s ransom note demands for information about a rare plant called duskwort, or else Mr. Benedict and his assistant Rhonda Kazembe will be in “grave danger.”

The kids sneak out to rescue Mr. Benedict, boarding the M/V Shortcut to Portugal, to trace their mentor’s steps following the clues he laid out for the group. There they run into old enemies, Curtain’s cronies from L.I.V.E. who are stronger and meaner than ever before.

Reynie, Kate, Sticky and Constance must pool their wits, evade capture and outsmart Ledroptha Curtain once more so they can be reunited with their beloved Mr. Benedict.

I find the Mysterious Benedict Society series so refreshing in the sea of flashy fantasy series that dominate the YA genre today. With no magic, no vampires or supreme beings, no love triangles or famous personalities, the books highlight good old-fashioned ingenuity with a delightful cast of offbeat characters, challenging puzzles, codes and ciphers, and a clever, twisty plot that’s full of surprises.

Aside from the emphasis on friendship and individuality, I like that the book makes a statement about herd mentality and being swayed by sloganeering, and encourages critical thinking.

The prose is a bit wordy, which may be daunting for reluctant readers, but the story is interesting enough to sustain their attention, while more proficient middle readers will definitely turn page after page and ask for more!

There’s a third book in the series, The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner’s Dilemma, that I want to read too, although it’s still in hardcover (I’m such a cheapskate!)… Hopefully the paperback copy comes out soon, although I hope the series doesn’t end there just yet.


The Mysterious Benedict Society and The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey, both trade paperback
both 4/5 stars

books 4 and 5 for 2010


21 thoughts on “The Mysterious Benedict Society”

  1. Hi Tina! I think this is your type of book too!

    One more great thing about them — the paperbacks are reasonably priced at P290+ — strong binding and printed on thick, good quality paper too!

  2. Favorite ko itong book na ito. I’m glad for the good review. Nabili ko yun first book sa sales bin. Tapos nun patapos na yun book nalaman ko na kaya pala siya nasa sales bin putol yun dulo nun last chapter nun book. Kaya ayun bumili ulit ako ng another copy. Gusto ko din bilhin yun 3rd book pero puro hardbound pa eh. hehehe. Tsaka ganda din ng illustrations ng book.

  3. Hi Ray-ann! Bad trip naman yung sale copy na yun. I love the illustrations — I prefer Carson Ellis’ art (book 1) to Diana Sudyka’s (book 2) though.

    Im also waiting for book 3 in paperback. If I get it in hardbound kasi I’ll be forced to upgrade all of them!!!

  4. Pareho tayo. Once nasimulan ko ng paperback yun series dapat parepareho na, pag hardbound ganun din. hahaha…

    OO nga mas okay yun kay Carson Ellis. Pero maganda pa din yun Diana.

    1. @Ms. Zarah- Ooh, that’s interesting! I studied in a Benedictine school for 11 years but I never knew that. But I should’ve figured — the Benedictine monasteries were the repositories of learning in the early middle ages.

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