The Gingerbreadman—sadistic serial killer psychopath (and one tough cookie)—murdered one hundred and five people before his gingery killing spree was cut short by Jack Spratt. Now he's serving out his four-hundred year sentence in St. Cerebellum's secure mental institution. Or, at least, he was.
With a bold, well-timed break-out, the Gingerbreadman makes his escape. DCI Jack Spratt steps up at once, ready to take down the frosted freak for the final time. But Superintendent Briggs, unjustly concerned after Jack's bungling of the Little Red Riding Hood affair, has placed the well-meaning but incompetent DI Copperfield in charge of the case, and suggests that Jack undergo psychiatric evaluation—and possibly a forced retirement.
But Jack knows that he isn't the one who's snapped. Brushed off of the Gingerbreadman-hunt, Jack focuses on the missing persons case of journalist "Goldilocks" Hatchett, who mysteriously vanished in Anderson's Wood. Last known location: a cottage occupied by three bears. Before her disappearance Goldilocks had been investigating the mysterious explosion that took the life of a prize cucumber grower. She was certain that she'd stumbled on something big, but what exactly was it? Who was she going to meet at the three bears' cottage? And where did she go after she had fled?
Not all the facts add up—and that doesn't even touch on the curious incident of the porridge in the morning. How do you account for the discrepancy in temperature if they were all poured out at the same time? All clues seem to be pointing to the presence of another stranger in the cottage that morning—a fourth bear. Jack Spratt and Mary Mary are determined to follow the trail of the illusive ursine, but doing so will lead them from a deadly WWII theme park, to competetive cucumber growing, to the Quangle-Wangle's inner circle—and back into the waiting arms of the Gingerbreadman.
Questions you never thought to ask and answers you never thought to question about classic nursery rhymes are tackled in this word-smashing, fourth-wall-bending, tongue-in-cheek hardboiled fantasy mystery. The idea of the Gingerbreadman as trenchcoat-donning violent mass murderer in a world where trans-galactic alien immigration is a thing would be absurd in any other work of fiction. In this series that's just the way the cookie crumbles. Jasper Fforde manages to strike a pleasing balance of wacky humor and straight-up mystery. Not too crazy, not too tedious, and, well, you get the picture.
Review by Lauren Shearer
Lauren Shearer writes words for fun and profit. She also makes films, but everyone knows you can't make a profit doing that. Her other hobby is consistently volunteering way too much of her time. You can read more of her reviews here
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