I will not spoil this book for anyone. So you can feel free to read this entire review and walk away satisfied that a.) you should absolutely read this series if you have not already done so and b.) you will be pleasantly surprised by the book itself. Now, after saying that, I must tell you (to calm your excited nerves) that this is the last book in the Mysterious Benedict Society series. (Unless, of course, Trenton Lee Stewart does something WeIrD to revive the storyline.)
As any reading of Reading to Know well knows, I adore this book series. Simply, positively adore it. After reading The Mysterious Benedict Society (to see my review of it, click on the title) I declared it one of the best (and totally unintentional) allegories for spiritual warfare that I have ever in my life read. Book 2 was more focused on adventure and I didn't see as many biblical parallels and the same goes for The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma. It is a fun adventure story in which the reader becomes so sucked into the story that the pages turn themselves. Before you know you've started the book, it's over. (Then you cry and wish it was all brand new again, but then you plan a re-read and feel better about life in general.)
In The Prisoner's Dilemma we once again meet up with Reynie, Kate, Sticky and Constance who are holed away at Mr. Benedict's house and in a state of confinement to keep them safe from Mr. Curtain and the Ten Men. The mysterious mind reading device known as The Whisperer is safe for the moment, but, of course, Mr. Curtain is working mischief to win it back and take control of the world. (Can you just see me sitting here in your mind's eye, with my eyes dancing and with this huge grin on my face? You'd have it just about right!)
Once again the four children are engaged in a battle between good and evil. Once again I love this book for the clear distinction between what is right and what is wrong. In this book the children's skills at deduction and giftings are put into play to ultimately save the day. (That's really not a spoiler. This series is very certain about good being good and evil being evil.) Once again the children are "in the know" about the evil that Mr. Curtain would love to unleash upon the planet while the rest of the unsuspecting population is going about their daily lives.
The two messages of this book that came across the strongest for me were the following:
1. It was incredibly important for Reynie, Kate, Sticky and Constance to work as a team. Constance is the youngest of the group and throughout this book her giftings become more clear to the group. She is a valued team member (although a very difficult one to deal with!) but so is everyone else. The message is reinforced over and over again in this book that we need people. We are not meant to live alone. It reminds me of the following verse:
Where there is no guidance the people fall, But in abundance of counselors there is victory. Ps. 11:14
If the children had not stuck together and worked together, they might not have met with success in their endeavors. By reasoning together, putting other people's pleasure, comfort and safety above their own, they made it through as a unit. That flies in the face of modern thought. We do not typically find ourselves safe in crowds of people - no matter who those people are and how much we might like them! Even the Army is peddling a new slogan about being an 'Army of One' but that's bogus! We need people. We need to be a part of a community. We need fellowship and accountability and this book highlighted that need in an adventurous and clever way, for which I have a great deal of appreciation.
2. In one conversation with Mr. Benedict, the children are discussing some of Mr. Curtain's spies and how they fell prey to Mr. Curtain's evil designs. Mr. Benedict makes the following statement:
"Indeed, confident assurances and promises of fortune, when whispered into the right ears, often serve as substitutes for thinking at all." (page 107)
This "simple" statement emphasizes the fact that we need to be individuals of thought and discernment, not willing just to accept whatever is spoon fed to us by any number of individuals, corporations, even, er, Christian organizations. We need to be people of moral integrity, always searching for what is true. As a Christian, I believe the best source of truth is the Word of God. So then it follows that I should be comparing the things I hear/read/see/think/do in light of scripture, that being my ultimate authority.
How do the two messages simultaneously work together? Be a team! Be thoughtful towards your own behavior!
Good thought and good company somehow seem wrapped up in each other. Ironically, these two messages are ones that I am grappling with in my own life. I do not think I just pulled these messages from the book out of the hat though. They are clearly some of the main points of this work.
We need each other. We also need to be searching for truth. Sometimes that means taking a stand for one's self. And other times we find the most safety in a multitude of counselors. It's a curious balance.
And The Prisoner's Dilemma , my friends, is an awesome conclusion to the Mysterious Benedict Society series, providing its own curious balance and satisfying every reader's desire for entertainment and a good deal of thought.
My other copies of these books are both paperback editions but since I rushed out to buy a hardback, I feel the need to replace the first two with hardbacks also. Not that I mind and it's probably a wise thing to do because I intend to love these books fiercely with my children as we all grow up together.
Contest will be open until Saturday, October 17th.
THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED.
If you have not yet read The Mysterious Benedict Society, this would be an excellent opportunity to correct the situation.