The Fourth Bear by Jasper Fforde

The Fourth Bear by Jasper Fforde (unabridged audiobook read by Simon Vance; 11 hrs on 9 discs): Oh, goodness, I’m not even sure where to start. The Gingerbread Man is a psychotic killer who escapes from jail. Goldilocks is found dead in a partly-finished WWI theme park. Sinister events plague the cutthroat world of competitive cucumber-growing. Bears deal in illicit porridge paraphernalia. Punch and Judy are marriage counselors. The whole thing is absolutely ridiculous, but Detective Jack Spratt is on the case. I got quite a few chuckles out of this one, but most of the really good laughs were from the excerpts from The Barkshire Bumper Book of Records at the beginning of each chapter. If you’re familiar with nursery rhymes and enjoy absurd humor, you’ll probably enjoy this one. I don’t know how well it stands on its own, but as the sequel to The Big Over Easy it’s quite entertaining. Too bad Fforde hasn’t written any more in this series.

A note on the audio: The first book in this series, The Big Over Easy, was narrated by Simon Prebble. Previously I’d only heard Vance read more serious books, like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It was fun listening to him read this bit of silliness, but I’m not sure how I would have felt if I’d listened to the books back to back.

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