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brilliant as always
The Fourth Bear is the second of the Nursery Crime series by popular author Jasper Fforde. Things are not going too well for Detective Chief Inspector Jack Spratt of the Nursery Crime Division: a prime NCD case (the escape from custody of the violent psychopath, The Gingerbreadman) has been allocated to another detective; his boss, Superintendent Briggs, doesn’t trust his judgement and has insisted on a psychiatric evaluation of his fitness to function as head of the NCD; and the press, in particular Josh Hatchett of The Toad, constantly trash him. Luckily he has the support of Detective Sergeant Mary Mary and PC Ashley (the blue Rambosian alien). And he needs it, because soon enough, he has been suspended from duty, then asked by John Hatchett to look into the disappearance of his sister Henrietta “Goldy” Hatchett, last seen by the Three Bears in the Anderson woods. And it seems his marriage to the wonderful Madeleine is in trouble. Once again, Fforde’s incredible imagination throws up a feast of ridiculous names: villages, psychiatrists, serial killers, street names for illicit substances, theme parks to name a few. With an abundance of wordplay, puns, plot devices and lame jokes that even the characters themselves comment on, Fforde somehow manages to connect unexplained explosions, porridge, missing scientists, cucumbers, anthropomorphic bears, the technical arm of a multinational corporation, a WWI theme park, a psychopathic biscuit, conspiracy theorists and nuclear fusion. Jack also manages to buy himself a new Austin Allegro Equipe with an unusually useful feature, as well as a less desirable one. And maracas: I had no idea! The definitive reference for it all is the 2004 edition of The Bumper Book of Berkshire Records, without doubt an interesting read. This is probably Fforde’s best yet and will whet the reader’s appetite for The Last Great Tortoise Race.