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The Fourth Bear
By Jasper Fforde

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The Fourth Bear

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The Fourth Bear
A Nursery Crime
By Jasper Fforde
Thorndike Press Large Print, (2006)
ISBN 10: 0-7862-9001-3
ISBN 13: 978-0-7862-9001-7
Genre: Mystery

Reviewed by Auggie Moore - May 21, 2007

The Fourth Bear is the newest edition to Jasper Fforde's Nursery Crime series featuring the indomitable detective, DCI Jack Spratt. Whimsical and zany, The Fourth Bear will delight readers of all ages as you follow Spratt through a series of nursery rhymes as he investigates a capricious number of crimes. As you might imagine in a Fforde book, not all is well within the pages of some of your favorite books!

While I still miss Thursday Next, and I hope that Fforde returns to writing more Next books, the Nursery Crime series is quickly growing on me! Fforde's writing is blithe and unique, amply satirical, full of literary allusions, and oh so deliciously devious! In this volume you'll find Spratt, aided by the trusty DS Mary Mary, tasked with the job of locating a missing journalist. Perhaps best known by her nickname, Goldilocks, the missing journalist was last seen alive by the Three Bears. Or, as the title suggests, was their a fourth bear? And if so, what did he have to do with Goldy's disappearance? To complicate their task the Gingerbreadman has escaped from a hospital for the criminally insane and is on the loose and out for blood. For those that are not familiar with the Gingerbread nursery rhyme, "Run, run as fast as you can you can't get away from the Gingerbreadman" you might be surprised to discover that this sweet little cookie is in reality a diabolical sadist who is hunting for new victims along the streets and byways of Reading!

The Gingerbreadman is Spratt's old nemesis, but he's been ordered to stay off the case and just look for 'Goldy'. Obeying orders is sometimes hard at times, and Spratt manages to sink his teeth into Gingerbreadman case, while also doing his duty hunting down missing persons. Along the way, Spratt encounters exploding cucumbers, a quarreling pair of marriage counselors better known as Punch and Judy, and a car an odd car whose odometer runs backwards. Spratt purchased it from Dorian Gray - so I'm surprised that he's surprised!

The Fourth Bear is a wonderfully creative book, and the second in the Nursery Crimes series. In the first book, The Big Over Easy, Spratt must discover who killed Humpty Dumpty. If you like witty word play, humorous tales, or are simply looking to read something a bit out of the ordinary - this, or for that matter, any of Fforde's books will fit the bill. I do, however, highly recommend that you read the books in the Nursery Crime series in order, just so that you'll understand the world he has created, the rules by which it operates, and the various characters that inhabit it. The same applies to the books in the Thursday Next series, which while interconnected with the Nursery Crime series, is wholly independent.

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