Book Review: Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner’s Dilemma

by Trenton Lee Stewart.

The inside flap states, “Is this the end of the Mysterious Benedict Society?”

I have to wonder.  When you tie up your loose ends, it’s usually time for Season 2 of a TV show or the end of a book series, lest one jump the shark.  However, for fans of the Society, I confirm the shark has been successfully not jumped.

A middle-gradish book (for ages 10-13) about four varied adventurers who outwit their adult opponents (with the aid of other adults), PD is, oh, almost as good as the first book (which gets extra points for surprise attack) and better than the second, whose cleverness was only apparent at the very end.  The only thing I didn’t care for was the depiction of the Prisoner’s Dilemma – a game problem in which one tries to determine whether cooperation or competition is the better strategy, and why.  The answer, in this book, is to cheat – that is, to walk away from the situation and create one’s own solution.

Not a bad message, per se, as long as one follows through on the consequences.  But not a terribly clever one, and thus disappointing.

Nevertheless, characters engaging, plot engrossing, prose amusing.  A good read.

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