The Fourth Bear
by Jasper Fforde
Viking, August 2006, ISBN 0-670-03772-9
A book review by Elisabeth Carey
At the start of the second Nursery Crime adventure, Jack Spratt and the Nursery Crime Division are experiencing an unaccustomed interval of official approval and public favor, after the successful resolution of the Humpty Dumpty murder.
Naturally, this can't last, and as a direct result of doing his job, Jack has been placed on medical leave. (He successfully captured the Big Bad Wolfunfortunately after both Grandma and Little Red Riding Hood had been swallowed. He had to go in after them and rescue them, and they're now apparently catatonic.) Jack can't return to duty until he has a session with a psychiatrist and she pronounces him fit for duty. This has happened at an especially inconvenient time, because the Gingerbreadman, the vicious serial killer whose capture was the first big success of Jack's career, has escaped. Meanwhile, mysterious explosions are killing competitive cucumber growers, an old irritant, Josh Hatchett of The Toad, is asking for a favorhis sister is missing. His sister whose nickname is Goldilocks is missinglast seen fleeing the cabin of the Bruin family. Jack delves into the world of bear porridge smuggling, competitive cucumber growing, the new theme park, SommeWorld, being built by QuangTech to discourage romantic images of war, and a painful encounter with his own true nature (as a PDRPerson of Dubious Reality.) And of course, Caliban has taken up residence in his house, and Punch and Judy have moved in next door.
This is fast-paced, entertaining sillinessgreat fun, and excellent light reading for a hot summer weekend.