From June 2012.
I vaguely recalled The Hostile Hospital as my favorite, and while I haven’t finished re-evaluating the whole series, that turned out to be about right.
This is the book where I want to give Violet the Dean Winchester Protective Sibling Award, and where I find the midpoint climax and suspense (the chase scene in the Library of Records) the most engrossing and dramatic: Esme on stilettos made with actual daggers, moving with “odd tottering steps” as occasionally the dagger-heel of her shoes get stuck in the wooden floor and she has to stop to yank them out before moving forward again. And she starts pushing over the filing cabinets, like dominoes, to crush the Baudelaires as they run. They find the drop chute where files were sent down, and Violet gets Sunny and Klaus to climb up, even though there isn’t room for herself.
“This won’t work,” Klaus said to Violet, peering around him. “It’ll be tough to crawl up through the chute, the way it’s slanted. Besides, there’s no way you’ll fit.”
“Then I’ll find another way,” Violet said. Her voice was calm, but Klaus and Sunny could see, through the hole in the wall, that her eyes were wide with fear.
Klaus protests, saying that’s out of the question and they must stick together, but Violet refuses. She says she’ll invent a solution, and gives them a small smile as she reaches for her ribbon, but it isn’t there. She already used it to fake a loop of keys to trick Hal, the good-hearted custodian of the Library of Records. And then there’s a creak behind her, and she jumps out of the way just as a filing cabinet slams against the wall, blocking the mouth of the drop chute.
Now this is the interesting part, as far as my memory of the book. I had thought I remembered a description that followed, of Klaus and Sunny listening to Violet running and Esme’s uneven tottering footsteps following, possibly laughter and taunts, until there was a crash, and then silence.
There is a short description of the chase and the different footsteps, but there’s no climactic, harrowing crash and silence. Though it was very effective in my mind. It just moves on to the other siblings moving up through the chute and waiting all night, in vain, for Violet to return.
Now to the next part, when Klaus and Sunny finally find their sister again, even though they’re in disguise as doctors and are perceived as the two pale-faced women by Olaf’s other henchmen, and Klaus is carrying a rusty saw.
There’s a summary first of Sleeping Beauty, Lemony Snicket-style, just to set up a contrast for Violet’s appearance (and also because one of the henchmen called her that). Then:
The eldest Baudelaire was lying on a gurney…. This particular gurney was as rusty as the knife Klaus was holding, and its sheets were ripped and soiled. Olaf’s associates had put her into a white gown as filthy as the sheets, and had twisted her legs together like vines. Her hair had been messily thrown over her eyes so that no one would recognize her face from The Daily Punctilio, and her arms hung loosely from her body, one of them almost touching the floor of the room with one limp finger. Her face was pale, as pale and empty as the surface of the moon, and her mouth was open slightly in a vacant frown, as if she were dreaming of being pricked with a pin. Violet looked as though she had dropped onto the gurney from a great height, and if it were not for the slow and steady rise of her chest as she breathed, it would have looked like she had no survived the fall. Klaus and Sunny looked at her in horrified silence, trying not to cry as they gazed at their helpless sister.
Which I find one of the creepiest descriptions in the series.
Also the fact that the henchmen took off her clothes to put her in a hospital gown. Um. And then there’s follow-up from the next book (although it’s a bit of a plot hole too, since Hal still had her ribbon while she was being prepared for surgery):
“I wish I had a ribbon,” Violet said, “to tie up my hair. It’s hard to think seriously with my powdery hair getting in my eyes. But my hair ribbon is somewhere at Heimlich…”
Her voice trailed off, and Klaus saw that she had reached her hand into the pocket of Count Olaf’s pants and was drawing out a ribbon that looked just like the one she usually wore.
“Yerz,” Sunny said.
“It is mine,” Violet said, looking at it closely. “Count Olaf must have kept it when he was preparing me for surgery, and left it in his pocket.”
…YEAH. There’s a lot of subtle creepiness in these books, if you think about it, starting in the very first book when Olaf tries to marry Violet, and in the second when he rubs her knee with his knife under the table. And yes, they’re wearing Count Olaf’s pants, even if it’s one of his disguise costumes.