#28 – The Fourth Bear

July 6, 2007

just like my favourite song, some pretty words that didn’t last that longI’m heading back to Jasper Fforde’s well with The Fourth Bear, the sequel to the first in his Nursery Crime series, The Big Over Easy.  If you don’t count the three volumes of Scott Pilgrim (which I basically read in one sitting and are part of one big story anyway), Fforde is the first author I’ve gone back to read a second book by this summer.  There’s really not a whole lot I can say about it, it’s pretty much the same MO as the last time around: DCI Jack Spratt and DS Mary Mary investigate crimes involving nursery rhyme characters, here centering on a possible conspiracy in the death of Goldilocks, and the escape of the homicidal psychopath known as the Gingerbreadman.  Still entertaining, still interesting.

My only problem with The Fourth Bear is that Fforde uses way more meta humour than in any of his previous books.  Characters mutter about plot holes under their breath, comment on how much time Fforde spent setting up an elaborate “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers” pun, and supporting characters have really in-jokey names, even by Jasper Fforde’s standards.  The book was still funny and I did enjoy it, but the self-aware humour started to wear thin after a while.

More importantly, Fforde makes several references throughout to his other (and in my opinion far superior) books, the Thursday Next series.  Among the in-jokes, for example, Thursday’s villainous Goliath Corporation is described by a Nursery Crime almanac as the “Biggest Fictional Multinational Corporation”.  And on the last page of the book, Fforde promised that Thursday would return in The War of the Words, which now has the much better title First Among Sequels and is due out in North America later this month.  Nursery Crime is all well and good, and I’ll certainly read the third book, The Last Great Tortoise Race when it’s released, but right now I really just want some Thursday Next, you know?



  1. I complete agree with you about Mr. Fforde and his two series. A few months back, I read The Big Over Easy and, while it was enjoyable, it was nowhere near as giddily clever as the books from the Thursday Next are. I figure one day I’ll get around to reading The Fourth Bear (when it comes out in paperback) but I am nowhere near as excited to read that as I am to read First Among Sequels. I’m counting the days.

  2. Oh, by the by, I love your blog. : )

  3. Thanks, J.S.! Yeah, FForde can make as many puns involving children’s books as he wants, but it’s never going to compare to the literary brilliance of Thursday Next. If you liked The Big Over Easy you’ll almost certainly like The Fourth Bear, it’s really more of the same, and it’s decent. Wait until the next Thursday Next drought to read it, though. First Among Sequels is already out in England, I heard, and there’s no sense reading any lesser works at this point.

  4. […] The last two things I read by him were the comparatively inferior spin-offs The Big Over Easy and The Fourth Bear, so I think I had forgotten just how great Fforde is when he’s at the top of his game.  […]

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