"For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me. I was not in safety, neither had I rest, neither was I quiet; yet trouble came."
This book is probably the most daring in the series, literarily speaking. GR's spell check is telling me "literarily" isn't an actual word, but it's wrong. "Literarily" can be derived logically, so deal with it, spell check.
Snicket *crafts* this book. There are whole passages in mirror-writing. There's a "Not A Chapter." There are three chapters in a row that can be read in any order, because they take place simultaneously. None of this is whimsical or tossed carelessly onto the page. It's deliberate, significant, and a pleasure to read.
There are also numerous literary references, as is typical for the series. None of them are to the book of Job; but I quoted the verses above because to me they sum up the arc of this book perfectly.
The Baudelaires are fleeing from peril, as they have been all through this series. They come to what has been called "the last safe place." In the last few books, they have grappled with serious moral issues. They've agonized over whether their behavior is distinguishable from their enemies', and wondered if they really are standing on moral high ground.
In this penultimate peril, they learn that the most terrifying thing that can happen to heroes and heroines is not to be caught and captured by a villain, but to spark his admiration. Not because he's seen the error of his ways, but because he has a soft spot for the error of other people's ways -- especially people who have been in the habit of scorning his badness and taking their own virtue as a given.
As always, Snicket leaves me wanting to read more -- of his books and of those he quotes.