By Lemony Snicket
The Baudelaire children like to go to the beach on cloudy days when it isn’t crowded. Violet (14) is skipping rocks and thinking about inventing a machine to retrieve them for her. Klaus (12) loves to read books and examines the creatures in the tide pools. Sunny is just a baby and likes to bite things. A figure starts to approach them in the distance. As it gets closer, they realize it is Mr. Poe, a friend of their parents. He comes to tell them their parents have died in a fire that also destroyed their house, the Baudelaire Mansion. As executor of their estate, he is going to take them home with him while they figure out where they belong.
After a few days of staying with the Poe family, the Baudelaire orphans are still feeling horrible about the death of their parents. The house smells and they are all crammed into a bedroom with the Poe children, Edgar and Albert. Mr. Poe tells them they will be staying with a distantly related, Count Olaf, because he is their only relative in the city. They pack and then leave the next morning. When they pull up to the house, they meet Justice Strauss and see her beautiful house. The children are disappointed when they learn she is Count Olaf’s neighbor. They are even more disappointed when they see Count Olaf’s house and go inside. Count Olaf thanks Mr. Poe for dropping them off. Mr. Poe tells the children they can contact him at the bank if they have any questions and leaves them there.
Count Olaf provides the children with one dingy room and one dingy bed. Violet and Klaus takes turns using the bed. They have created a sort of nest out of the curtains for Sunny. Each morning, he leaves them poridge and a list of choirs. One day he tells them to buy ingredients and make dinner for his theater troupe of 10 for that night. As they are searching the kitchen for a cookbook, there is a knock at the door. Justice Strauss is there to see if they need anything. They ask if she has a cookbook they can borrow and she leads them into her library. The children are impressed with the collection and Justice Strauss agrees to let them borrow her books. They find a simple reciepe for puttanesca sauce and write it down.
Justice Strauss escorts them to and from the market to get what they need. They make plans with her to visit her library the next day before going inside to make the sauce. Everything is ready as Count Olaf comes bursting into the house. He is furious they haven’t made roast beef. The children try to point out that he never mentioned what he wanted for dinner, but he picks up Sunny and holds her very high up with one hand. When the troupe comes to join them in the kitchen, they all seem disgusted by the children. One tells Violet that Count Olaf might mess up her pretty face if she makes him mad. Violet and Klaus serve the noodles and sauce before retreating to the kitchen. They are too upset to eat anything themselves. When the group starts banging on the table to have their plates cleared, Violet and Klaus do that and then serve the chocolate pudding they prepared. As the troupe marches back through the kitchen to leave, Count Olaf tells them they are to clean up and go straight to their beds. Klaus corrects them saying they only have one bed. Their guardian replies they can go to town and buy another one. Klaus reminds him they don’t have any money until Violet comes of age. Count Olaf smacks him across the face before he leaves. One in the group is certain Count Olaf will get their money soon. The children clean up, go to their room, and cry all night long.
The next morning, the children are left a note telling them to chop wood. They go out back and Violet and Klaus use axes on the pile of wood. As they chop, they discuss their options. They both agree it would be nice if Justice Strauss would adopt them, but that it is not likely. Mr. Poe told them to come see him if they have any questions, so they decide that is their best corse of action. They find the financial distract and visit several banks before they find the one Mr. Poe works at. They are taken to his office that is flooded with paperwork and flashing phones. They try to tell him about their awful situation, but he has several distractions and doesn’t seem to hear what they say. He tells them Count Olaf is loco parentis and has the right to raise them however he sees fit. The children leave feeling defeated. They decide to return to their new home and come up with a new plan.
The next morning, Count Olaf greets them in the kitchen with oatmeal that has raspberries in it. They are suspicious of it until he eats one of the berries. He apologizes for being “standoffish” due to the pressures of his theater troupe. He tells them he will be including them in his next one-time performance. Klaus and Sunny will be the audience to the wedding of Count Olaf and Violet’s characters. Justice Strauss will be playing the judge that will marry them. The children are very suspicious of this and Violet tries to get out of it by offering to work on the set. Count Olaf insists she play the bride. As they sit trying to figure out the Count’s plot, Sunny says “book.” Violet and Klaus decide they will visit Justice Strauss’ library again and this time they will read books about inheritance law.
Justice Strauss finds the children reading law books in her library. She offers to take Sunny out to the garden with her while the other two read. Eventually, Violet is burned out and goes to join the judge and her sister. Klaus continues to read until the man with hooks for hands from Count Olaf’s theater troupe come to collect them. When he goes outside to fetch Violet and Sunny, Klaus shoves a book under his shirt to take home with him.
Klaus stays up all night reading the book that borrowed from Justice Strauss. He learned that all that is needed for a marriage to be legal in their community is a statement of “I do,” and a judge present to witness the parties sign a piece of paper. Klaus goes down to the kitchen early to confront Count Olaf about his plan to marry Violet and take hold of her inheritance. He threatens to take the information to Mr. Poe and have Olaf arrested, but the count doesn’t seem worried. He tells Klaus to go tell his sisters what he has learned. Klaus explains everything to Violet. When they go to get Sunny out of the pile of curtains that make her bed, they find that she is missing. Violet and Klaus are worried. Count Olaf is in the doorway and seems to know something about the situation.
Count Olaf suggests the children go outside. When they do, they see Sunny is being kept in a birdcage hanging in the window of the 30 story tower. She has tape over her mouth and is tied up. Count Olaf promises to release Sunny if Violet agrees to marry him. She does and can only trust Count Olaf will release Sunny after the marriage is complete. The count orders them to do their chores and Violet uses this time to think about how to save her sister.
That night while Klaus is sleeping, Violet breaks and shapes the curtain rod with rocks and tears up some clothes to make a grappling hook. She sneaks out side and tries throws it against the tower hoping to catch something. On the fourth attempt, the hook is steady and she starts climbing. She remembers when her parents brought home her siblings and told her she is always responsible for making sure they are safe. She is happy to see Sunny when she gets to the top of the tower and the cage. Whens he looks to see what the hook latched onto, she finds the hook of the man from Count Olaf’s theater troupe.
The hook-handed man pulls Violet into the tower and uses his walkie-talkie to let Count Olaf know what has happened. As ordered by the count, the man locks Violet in the tower and goes to get Klaus to join her. They spend all day locked in the tower trying to think of how to get out of their predicament while trying to reassure Sunny (still in the cage) that everything will be alright. It isn’t until Count Olaf comes to get them that Violet comes up with an idea. She stares are her right hand as it grips the railing and thinks the entire way to the theater.
Violet and Klaus are kept backstage during the first two acts of the play. While they are both fascinated with the intricacies of the theater, they are also both terrified of what is about to happen. When Justice Strauss arrives, they try to convince her to change the words of the ceremony for the play, but she doesn’t want to mess it up her acting debut. During intermission, Mr. Poe comes by to wish them luck on their performance. Olaf comes to demand two white faced women to get the children into costume. Violet is put into a dirty white bridal gown and Klaus into a sailor suit. The wedding takes place. Olaf and Violet say, “I do,” and she signs the document with her left hand.
Count Olaf stops the play to announce the marriage was real. No one seems to be able to dispute it. He tells his associate to bring Sunny to the theater. Justice Strauss is in tears and Mr. Poe is furious. Violet points out the law states she must sign the document in her own hand, but she signed it with her left. Justice Strauss determines this means that the wedding was not legal. Count Olaf tries to keep Sunny in his possession, but she has already arrived and is soon reunited with her siblings. Mr. Poe grabs the count to have him arrested for hanging Sunny out of a window. The lights go out and when Violet is able to get to the switch to turn them back on, Olaf and his associates are gone. Justice Strauss offers to adopt the children, but Mr. Poe insists they be with family as defined in their parents will. The children get into Mr. Poe’s car and wave goodbye to the happy life they could have had with Justice Strauss.