Monday, June 11, 2007

The Fourth Bear

I have just finished reading Jasper Fforde’s second book in his Nursery Crime series. It, like all his books, was brilliant. I love the obscure literary references at every turn. I love the puns. I love the imagination of it all. From the books description:

The Gingerbreadman—psychopath, sadist, genius, and killer—is on the loose. But it isn’t Jack Spratt’s case. He and Mary Mary have been demoted to Missing Persons following Jack’s poor judgment involving the poisoning of Mr. Bun the baker. Missing Persons looks like a boring assignment until a chance encounter leads them into the hunt for missing journalist Henrietta “Goldy” Hatchett, star reporter for The Daily Mole. Last to see her alive? The Three Bears, comfortably living out a life of rural solitude in Andersen’s wood.

But all is not what it seems. How could the bears’ porridge be at such disparate temperatures when they were poured at the same time? Why did Mr. and Mrs. Bear sleep in separate beds? Was there a fourth bear? And if there was, who was he, and why did he try to disguise Goldy’s death as a freak accident?

Jack answers all these questions and a few others besides, rescues Mary Mary from almost certain death, and finally meets the Fourth Bear and the Gingerbreadman face-to-face.

My favorite parts:

The on going controversy as to whether or not the Gingerbreadman is a cake or a cookie.

The idea that Punch and Judy are highly successful marriage counselors.

“Most illegal substance for bears: The euphoria-inducing porridge (“flake”) is a Class III foodstuff, and while admitting a small problem, the International League of Ursidae considers that rationed use does no real harm. Buns (“doughballs”) and honey (“buzz” or “sweet”) remain on the Class II list and are more rigorously controlled, except for medicinal purposes....The most dangerous substance on the Class I list is marmalade (“chunk,””shred” or “peal”). The serious psychotropic effects of marmalade can lead to all dangerous and aberrant behaviour and are generally best avoided as far as bears are concerned.”

“Pippa’s pregnant by Peck”

“Pippa Piper picked Peck of Pickle or Pepper?” exclaimed Mary incredulously. “Which of the Peck pair did Pippa Piper pick?”

“Peter ‘pockmarked’ Peck of Palmer Park. He was the Peck that Pippa Piper picked.”

“No, no,” returned Mary, “you’ve got it all wrong. Paul Peck is the Palmer Park Peck; Peter Peck is the pockmarked Peck from Pembroke Park. Pillocks. I’d placed a pound on Pippa Piper picking PC Percy Proctor from Pocklington.”

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