Reynard "Reynie" Muldoon is an orphaned boy with a love for puzzles and books, living in an orphanage in the metropolis of Stonetown with his tutor Miss Perumal. Upon noticing an advertisement in the newspaper directed to "gifted children looking for special opportunities", Miss Perumal convinces Reynie to take the test, which consists of many strange rounds of vigorous and bizarre selection, such as analyzing chess matches, identifying obscure geography, and stating whether or not one enjoys viewing television programming. Despite the huge numbers of children that arrive to take the test, only Reynie, and one other boy successfully pass. His newfound counterpart is George "Sticky" Washington, a bald, circumspect, and timid boy with a photographic memory. After the two become acquainted, they discover one additional child that also progressed to the final rounds of processing, though she had done so not by her mental artifices. The name is Kate Wetherall, a resourceful girl with a tremendous physical prowess, possessing spatial visualization abilities, and distinguished for carrying around a variety of tools in a belted fire-engine red bucket. The collective of children are ushered into a room in which must cross from side to the other without setting in any blue or black squares on the tiled floor. Sticky crawls across the room on his hands and knees, keeping his feet above the ground. Kate tightrope walks and walks on her hands across the room. Reynie, realizing the task is a mere trick as the floor is only a set of rectangles, simply walks across the floor without effort. The children are then brought into a pitch black maze they must traverse, after which the three are brought to Mr. Nicholas Benedict and Constance Contraire, a diminutive girl with a very defiant personality and gift for witticisms. Mr. Benedict reveals himself to be the main devisor of the various tests, along with his subordinates Number Two, Rhonda Kazembe, and secret agent (turned security guard for Benedict) Milligan, who explain of a mysterious threat plaguing the world in the form of secret messages transmitted into people's minds via television and radio signals, arousing a sort of illusionary panic and alarm known as "The Emergency". Mr. Benedict then welcomes all of them to be part of a team to stop the Sender of those messages, that come from the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened of the coast of Stonetown, on Nomansan Island. Although initially hesitant, Reynie agrees to join, along with everyone else, naming themselves the Mysterious Benedict Society.