JASPER FFORDE – The Fourth Bear. Viking, hardcover, August 2006; Penguin, trade paperback, July 2007.


   The second in the Nursery Crime series featuring DCI Jack Spratt and DS Mary Mary [after The Big Over Easy (2005)] finds Jack once again on the outs with his superiors and sidelined while a clueless detective investigates the escape from prison of the murderous Gingerbreadman, whose capture was one of Jack’s early successes.

   In spite of warnings not to involve himself, Jack seems to keep running into the Gingerbreadman as he looks into the disappearance and subsequent murder of “Goldy” Hatchett after she escapes from a confrontation with the three bears in their rural retreat, and a series of mysterious explosions and deaths of cucumber growers that may somehow to linked to secret experiments of interest to the mammoth and slightly sinister QuangTech industries.

   This may strike some readers as terminally cute, but I thought it was funny and a compulsive page-turner, with the important role played by the bear community further insuring my enjoyment of the goings-on.