Mini Review: The Fourth Bear by Jasper Fforde

The Fourth Bear
Jasper Fforde

Viking Adult
Released August 3, 2006
382 pages
Fantasy / Twisted Faerie Tales / Psychotic Gingerbread Men

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Jack Spratt and Mary Mary return in their second adventure from the inimitable Jasper Fforde

Five years ago, Viking introduced Jasper Fforde and his upsidedown, inside-out literary crime masterpieces. And as they move from Thursday Next to Jack Spratt's Nursery Crimes, his audience is insatiable and growing. Now, with The Fourth Bear, Jack Spratt and Mary Mary take on their most dangerous case so far as a murderous cookie stalks the streets of Reading.

The Gingerbread Man, 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 Gingerbread Man face-to-face.

I have a theory about Jasper Fforde and that’s why this is just a mini review. My theory – and this is backed up only by the empirical data taken from my book club – is that if you A) have an English degree, B) love meta things, or C) Have spent a lot of time critically examining the structure, constructs and tropes just because you like to, you will love Jasper Fforde. It helps if you also enjoy British humor and strange takes on classic characters. I easily check off all those items, so it’s no wonder that Fforde is my go-to guy when I want a silly, ridiculous book, and The Fourth Bear didn’t disappoint.

This isn’t Fforde’s best book, but it still has all the meta craziness that makes The Eyre Affair and The Big Over Easy, you’ll probably like this book. It’s somehow manic and meandering at the same time as Jack Spratt tries to solve the problem of Goldilock’s death and explosions that seem to be killing all the award-winning cucumber farmers in Reading. Fforde plays with detective tropes, the main characters make references to plot devices and the third wall is more or less non-existent.

There is also an alien creature as a police officer. His native language is binary. He owns a spaceship in his garage. There are aliens in Britain and they work for the police. Honestly I think that alone will give someone unfamiliar with Fforde’s work a good enough idea of the craziness that are within the covers of this book.

This is not a book for children. There is a 7 foot tall psychotic gingerbread man running around trying to dismember people. If that sounds like something you want to know more about, then pick up this book. You’ll have a giggly good time.