“Violet, Klaus and Sunny were playing at the beach on a cloudy day when they see a figure coming towards them. As the figure comes in view they recognize it is Mr. Poe, who is a family friend of their parents, coming towards them filled with sorrow. The children’s parents died in a fire and they lost everything. In the will of their parents, the children are to be raised by a family member and only someone within the family and Violet cannot inherit their money until she is of age.
The children live with Count Olaf, who is a distance cousin. Count Olaf makes them do daily chores while he entertains his friends. Count Olaf and his friends threaten the children and make their lives miserable, but the children find hope and security with their neighbor, Justice Strauss. Mrs. Strauss has a library and allows the children to use it when they want, she also checks on them when she has time.
Numerous times Count Olaf’s friends remind the children they are only being adopted so Count Olaf can take their inheritance for himself, and then they will be beaten and gotten rid of by Count Olaf and his friends. Count Olaf finds the only way to inherit the money is by putting on a play called Marvelous Marriage starring Violet, Count Olaf and the judge Mrs. Strauss. The children figure out his plot and try to warn Mr. Poe who does not believe. The whole town is blind and does not believe Count Olaf is really hurting the children.
The children try everything they can to get out of being in the play, but Sunny, the youngest, is held hostage until the end of the play, but Violet finds a clever way to fool Count Olaf who escapes from the angry towns people. For a while, the children are safe. Mr. Poe then has to find a new family member who will adopt the children and take care of them to respect the wishes of their parents.
This book did not take long to read and leaves the reader wanting to read the next book in the series. Although, while reading the book, I wanted to put it down several times because it was so hard to continue reading feeling the pain of the children and hearing how badly they were being treated by Count Olaf and his friends. At times, I was shocked, sitting there thinking how could anyone be so cruel to children who just lost their parents and how does no one know how badly they are really being treated. It was sad to read, but then I remembered the note at the beginning warning the reader about this book and how it is not a happy book. By the end of the story I was glad I had finished it to see what happened. At the end of the book I ended up being sort of happy because the children were able to trick Count Olaf, but it made me think about what could happen next. I wanted to keep reading more and more to find out what happens next to the children, hoping they will finally be given a better parent who will treat them well.