Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Fourth Bear - Jasper Fforde

2006; 378 pages. Book #2 of the Nursery Crime series. Genre : Umm... Nursery Crime. Overall Rating : A.
Golidlocks is dead, but was it an accident or murder? Jack Spratt is on the case, and there's a lot more on his plate than that. The Scissor-man is afoot, trying to separate thumb-sucking children from their digits. The homicidal Gingerbreadman is running as fast as he can. Punch & Judy have moved next door to Spratt, and the noise they make while fighting would keep the dead awake. Jack's sanity is in question, since he claims he has a self-repairing car, sold to him by Dorian Gray. 50-kilgoram cucumbers are being blown up, and someone is supplying illicit porridge to the bear community.
What's to Like...
TFB is punnier and funnier than the first book in the series, The Big Over Easy. Every cliché and plot deivce imaginable is deliberately used. There's a multitude of plots, and part of the fun is figuring out if and how Fforde intends to wrap them all up.
The prologues that start each chapter are great. And as usual, Chapter 13 is a study in efficiency. There's a fun-filled theme park called Somme World, where visitors can relive the horrors of World War One trench warfare. The bear society is a hoot.
There aren't many negatives. It does take a while for the story to get around to The Three Bears tale. But you're rewarded by learning how three bowls of porridge, all poured at the same time, can have three different temperatures, and why Mr. and Mrs. Bruin sleep in separate beds.
Cool words in The Fourth Bear...
Pedantic (ostentatious concern for details). Probity (complete, utter integrity). Moggy (a domestic cat). Sparrow's Fart (dawn). The latter two are Britishisms. I simply have to incorporate Sparrow's Fart into my daily vocabulary somehow.
"I was one of the first," (Hoffman) muttered sadly, following her gaze. "A life lived in fear is a life half lived. A life half lived is fear lived in half. A life half feared is a fear half lived."
Some people have a way wth words, but Hoffman wasn't one of them. (pg. 14)
"When did (the Gingerbreadman) escape?"
"Ninety-seven minutes ago," replied Copperfield. "Killed two male nurses and his doctor with his bare hands. The other three orderlies who accompanied him are critical in the hospital."
"Yes. Don't like the food, beds uncomfortable, waiting lists too long - usual crap. Other than that they're fine." (pg. 54)
The Fourth Bear is another ffine efffort by Fforde. I liked it a bit better than The Big Over Easy (reviewed here). He seems to be hitting his stride in this series, and it's a bit of a shame that it is planned to be only a trilogy. But Jack Spratt's loss is hopefully Thursday Next's gain.

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