After being taken away from their horrible guardian Count Olaf, the three Baudelaire children are taken by Mr. Poe to their new guardian, Dr. Montgomery Montgomery, who lives on Lousy Lane, in a house that smells like horseradish. According to Mr. Poe, Dr. Montgomery is the Baudelaire's "late father's cousin's wife's brother. Dr. Montgomery, or "Uncle Monty" as he prefers to be called, is a short, chubby man with a round red face. He invites the children in for coconut cream cake (or in Sunny's case, a carrot). He is much of a more friendly man rather than Count Olaf, and gives the children free rein in the house. Each of the children can have their own room. Monty tells the children that they will be going on an expedition to Peru, once his new assistant, Stephano, arrives. He says that his old assistant, Gustav, had suddenly and suspiciously resigned.
The children are fascinated by the many snakes in the Reptile Room, a giant hall in which Monty's reptile collection is stored. They meet The Incredibly Deadly Viper, which Monty has only recently discovered. The snake's name is a misnomer since it is harmless; Monty intends to use it to play a practical joke on the Herpetologist Society in revenge for them ridiculing his name, Montgomery Montgomery. The three children are each given jobs in the Reptile Room: Violet is given the job of inventing traps for new snakes found in Peru, Klaus is told to read books on snakes to help advise Uncle Monty and Sunny's job is to bite ropes into usable pieces. She also befriends the Incredibly Deadly Viper.
When Stephano arrives, the children realize that he is Count Olaf in disguise. They try to warn Monty, but Stephano foils these attempts. Eventually, Monty does realize Stephano is evil but believes Stephano to be an impostor sent to steal the Incredibly Deadly Viper. Monty explains this all to the astonished orphans and tears Stephano's ticket to Peru up, saying that Stephano will not be going on the trip with them. Stephano threatens the children privately later, hinting at a plot he has for them when they reach Peru. They tell him that Monty won't let him go with them and Stephano becomes furious. On the day they are to leave for Peru, they discover Monty's dead body in the Reptile Room. He has two tiny puncture holes under his left eye, and Stephano claims that he has been bitten by a snake.
Stephano still intends to take the children to Peru, where he will more easily find a way to get his hands on their fortune. However, as they are leaving the estate, Stephano's car crashes into that of Mr. Poe. They return to the house, where Poe and Stephano discuss what to do with the children. The Baudelaires try to prove that it was Stephano who killed Monty.
Meanwhile, the children realize that they'll need evidence to expose Stephano's scheme. Klaus and Sunny stage a diversion in which the Incredibly Deadly Viper pretends to attack Sunny to allow Violet time to find and open Stephano's suitcase. Stephano blows his cover when he informs Mr. Poe that Sunny is not in danger as the viper is harmless.
Soon, the Baudelaires will be assigned to yet another guardian. They watch as Monty's reptile collection is taken away by Bruce. They watch as the car containing the Incredibly Deadly Viper drives off into the night, and they hope to have a more fortunate guardian soon.
- For Beatrice–
- My love for you shall live forever.
- You, however, did not.
- In the new paperback version of the series,The Reptile Room or Murder, there is a circular stamp on Stephano's suitcase that has the V.F.D. insignia with a pupil drawn in the D.
Final Picture: In the last picture of The Reptile Room, Bruce and his partners are seen loading Dr. Montgomery's reptiles into a van. One of the men is wearing a shirt that reads Lachrymose Leeches on the back. A hint to the next book.
Letter to the Editor
To My Kind Editor,
I am writing to you from the shores of Lake Lachrymose, where I am examining the remains of Aunt Josephine's house in order to completely understand everything that happened when the Baudelaire orphans found themselves here.
Please go to the Café Kafka at 4 p.m. next Wednesday and order a pot of jasmine tea from the tallest waiter on duty. Unless my enemies have succeeded, he will bring you a large envelope instead. Inside the envelope, you will find my description of these horrific events, entitles THE WIDE WINDOW, as well as a sketch of Curdled Cave, a small bag of shattered glass, and the menu from the Anxious Clown restaurant. There will also be a test tube containing one (1) Lachrymose Leech, so that Mr. Helquist can draw an accurate illustration. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES should this test tube be opened.
Remember, you are my last hope that the tales of the Baudelaire orphans can finally be told to the general public.
With all due respect,
- On Stephano's suitcase, there is a picture an eye, a skull and a snake.
- Brummagen—a fancy word for "fake"
- Unblemished—without tattoos.
- Hackneyed—"used by so, so many writers that by the time Lemony Snicket uses it, it is a tiresome cliche."
- Inquisitive—Full of questions
- Herpetology—study of snakes
- Bambini—Italian for children
- Ology—the study of something.
- Clouded Over—"took on a slightly gloomy look as Uncle Monty thought about his bad luck"
- Alcove—"a very, very small nook just perfect for sitting and reading."
- Segue—"let the conversation veer off"
- Flourish—a sweeping gesture, often used to show off"
- Retrieve—"take away"
- Misnomer—'a wrong name'
- Ruffians—horrible people
- Main Article: References and allusions in Lemony Snicket's works
- Dr. Montgomery Montgomery, the herpetologist, may be a reference to Monty Python's Flying Circus.
- Dr. Montgomery Montgomery's name is also reminiscent of Humbert Humbert, the main character in Vladimir Nabokov's 1955 novel Lolita.
- One of the snakes in Dr. Montgomery's collection, the Virginian Wolfsnake, takes the name of novelist Virginia Woolf. Uncle Monty warns the Baudelaire children never to allow the snake near a typewriter.
- Both the name of the boat to Peru, "The Prospero," and the name Count Olaf take, "Stephano," are allusions to William Shakespeare's The Tempest.
- One of the books is 'The Care and Feeding of the Androgynous Cobra,' which is a reference to The Large Androgynous Person.
- When planning how to prove that Stephano murdered Uncle Monty, Sunny is asked to watch the door and bite anyone that tries to enter the Reptile Room. Sunny replies, "Ackroid!," which probably meant something like "Roger!" and is a likely reference to Agatha Christie's 1926 novel The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.
Several editions of The Reptile Room have been published. Some of these include foreign editions or re-prints such as: The Reptile Room (US), The Reptile Room (UK), The Reptile Room (UK Paperback), The Reptile Room or, Murder! and Le Laboratoire Aux Serpents.
The Reptile Room (UK)
The Reptile Room (UK) was released on May 26, 2003 by Egmont Books, Ltd. It features a black cover, different fonts and a lime-green spine. Brett Helquist's illustration also differs slightly. On each of the UK versions, between the coloured spine and the black cover there are narrow images depicting a reference to each books content. The Reptile Room features two entwined snakes. This is repeated on the back cover.
The Reptile Room (UK Paperback)
This is a paperback version of The Reptile Room released in the UK by Egmont Books in 2010. It has Lemony Snicket written on the top with A Series of Unfortunate Events written below it in an eye shape.
The Reptile Room: or, Murder!
The Reptile Room or, Murder! is a paperback re-release of The Reptile Room, designed to mimic Victorian penny dreadfuls. It was released on May 8, 2007, by HarperCollins. The book features a new full-color cover, seven new illustrations, and the second part of a serial supplement entitled The Cornucopian Cavalcade, which includes the second part of a 13-part comic by Michael Kupperman entitled The Spoily Brats, an advice column written by Lemony Snicket, and the second part of a story by Stephen Leacock entitled Q: A Psychic Pstory of the Psupernatural, along with other novelty additions.
Le Laboratoire Aux Serpents
Le Laboratoire Aux Serpents is the French edition of The Reptile Room, published by Nathan Poche. It is almost completely black with a white snake.