I don't often do book reviews, and I'm not sure I'll be as adept as wldhrsjen3
but this particular author deserves some recognition. The Fourth Bear
Jasper Fforde has become one of my favorite authors, ranking right up there on my list with Hemingway, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Robert Wrigley. His books are quirky and require a bookish nature to pick up all the allusions he makes to other pieces of literature. The man is obviously well read and has a splendid way of bringing characters to life.
The Fourth Bear is the second book in a series called "The Nursery Crime Division." Really, if you're going to read this book, you should actually start with Ffrode's Thursday Next
series, starting with The Eyre Affair
(yes, that is an allusion to Jane Eyre
). You cannot fully appreciate this nursery crime book if you do not first get a grasp on Fforde's world, which is well laid out before you in the Thursday Next
Fforde's books, The Fourth Bear included, fall into the comedic detective category. They seem to be a relative to the old 1930s film noir, such as The Maltese Falcon
. Of course, that also means Fforde's books are a relative to the written parent of the film as well. *grin* The crimes that need to be solved are bizarre at best and quite surreal. The man doing the detective work is himself a Nursery Character and has quite an unconventional way of solving crimes. But Fforde has written his rules well and his characters all stay within the lines, making them enjoyable. I always feel invested in Fforde's characters and what fate they will meet, even though they are clearly unreal.
The Fourth Bear was a little slower than the other books. It took me a while to get invested and I considered setting the book down and picking it up later when I was more in the mood. But I persisted a bit more and suddenly found myself wrapped up in the story line as the pieces finally began to connect. It opens with a mystery surrounding the death of Goldilocks, and leads us to the three bears, who are experiencing marital problems; The homicidal psychopath, The Gingerbread Man; and 50 kilo cucumbers that are mysteriously exploding. Yes, it's all quite surreal.
But DI Jack Spratt and his assistant Inspector Mary Mary are right on top of things, and they realize they are only on the tip of a very dangerous iceberg. As they uncover more clues and more seemingly unrelated threads, they find themselves in deeper and deeper trouble. While I can usually follow Jack's reasoning (as bizarre as it is), it was puzzling this time. So, just as you think they're juggling too many balls with no way to keep them all in the air, the whole plot comes together and you begin to see all the quirky connections. It finally makes sense and that lightbulb goes on. Then, you'll be rooting for the two inspectors and their crazy plot devices (yes, they're actually referred to as plot devices!) as the come to the wire and solve the crime.
If you enjoy a mystery, and comedy, give Fforde a try. It helps if you are well read and appreciate allusions, and can suspend your beliefs on the real world to let the literary characters lead you through their world. They are quirky books, on par with authors who enjoy using puns, but much more clever and tightly written.