The Fourth Bear (Nursery Crime Series #2)

( 65 )


The inimitable Jasper Fforde gives readers another delightful mash-up of detective fiction and nursery rhyme, returning to those mean streets where no character is innocent. The Gingerbreadman?sadist, psychopath, cookie?is on the loose in Reading, but that?s not who Detective Jack Spratt and Sergeant Mary Mary are after. Instead, they?ve been demoted to searching for missing journalist ?Goldy? Hatchett. The last witnesses to see her alive were the reclusive Three Bears, and right away Spratt senses something ...

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The Fourth Bear (Nursery Crime Series #2)

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The inimitable Jasper Fforde gives readers another delightful mash-up of detective fiction and nursery rhyme, returning to those mean streets where no character is innocent. The Gingerbreadman—sadist, psychopath, cookie—is on the loose in Reading, but that’s not who Detective Jack Spratt and Sergeant Mary Mary are after. Instead, they’ve been demoted to searching for missing journalist “Goldy” Hatchett. The last witnesses to see her alive were the reclusive Three Bears, and right away Spratt senses something furry—uh, funny—about their story, starting with the porridge. The Fourth Bear is a delirious new romp from our most irrepressible fabulist.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
Detective Chief Inspector Jack Spratt and his trusty sergeant, Mary Mary, are back in another sidesplitting Nursery Crime adventure from Jasper Fforde: the sequel to 2005's The Big Over Easy. In The Fourth Bear, Spratt must track down a legendarily violent criminal known as the Gingerbreadman, a "seven-foot biscuit with a bad attitude." After successfully apprehending the infamous Great Long Red-Legg'd Scissor-man, who cuts the digits off children who suck their thumbs, Spratt is inexplicably forced to take a leave of absence while a medical review board assesses his competency. With Mary Mary working as the acting head of the Nursery Crime Division -- and Spratt as her "consultant" -- the misfit members of the NCD are faced with two very different cases: to help track down the deranged Gingerbreadman, who has just escaped from a hospital for the criminally insane, and to find Henrietta "Goldilocks" Hatchett, an investigative reporter who mysteriously disappeared while working on a story about prizewinning pickles. The last to see her alive: a family of three bears who have recently experienced strange porridge problems… Fans of authors who specialize in outlandish, absurdist fiction -- Terry Pratchett, Christopher Moore, et al. -- will absolutely devour Fforde's Nursery Crime novels. If the essences of Monty Python's Flying Circus and Mother Goose were blended together, Fforde's Nursery Crime saga would be the result. Readers should be warned, however, that after reading The Fourth Bear, they will never look at porridge the same way again… Paul Goat Allen
The New York Times
Jasper Fforde is able to write diabolically.... Outrageous satirical agility is his stock in trade.
The Wall Street Journal
Mr. Fforde manages to bombard the reader with more bizarre detail than most writers would dare to fit in their entire oeuvre, yet he does so with ... light prose and easy, confident wit.
The Washington Times
Like the creators of ... The Simpsons and South Park, Mr. Fforde uses fantasy to dissect real life.... He is our best thinking person's genre writer.
Publishers Weekly
Like The Big Over Easy (2005), Fforde's first Nursery Crime novel, this sequel offers literary allusions, confusions and gentle satire, though, again like its predecessor, it lacks the snap of the author's Thursday Next series (The Eyre Affair, etc.). Jack Spratt, DCI of the Nursery Crime Division of the Reading Police Department, is also a PDR (Person of Dubious Reality), as are most of the characters Jack deals with, including the Gingerbreadman, a notorious killer, and Punch and Judy, a violence prone couple who are also marriage counselors. An alien policeman named Ashley, talking bears, a devoted group of cucumber-growing enthusiasts and an immensely powerful company, Quang Tech, add spice. All are grist for Fforde, whose word play runs the gamut from puns to shaggy dog stories. The Gingerbreadman's on the loose, Goldilocks is missing and Jack's once again persona non grata at headquarters. As Jack and his associates "bring justice to the nursery world," they also cast a Swiftian eye on corporate hubris, race relations, the drug trade and myriad other targets. (Aug.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Detective Chief Inspector Jack Spratt, head of Readings Nursery Crime Division, is back on the case in this sequel to The Big Over Easy. Once again, Spratt is hampered by division politics and his failure to prevent the Big Bad Wolf from swallowing Red Riding Hood and her grandmother. Busted down to Missing Persons, Spratt and Constable Mary Mary are officially shut out of the hunt for the murderous Gingerbread Man, but their paths keep crossing during an investigation into the disappearance of reporter Henrietta "Goldilocks" Hatchett. Meanwhile, Jack struggles with telling his wife the truth about his past, and Mary contemplates dating an alien. With an allusion, pun, or joke on every page, Fforde continues his skewering of detective fiction conventions and nursery rhymes in this world where Punch and Judy are marriage counselors and Dorian Gray is a used car salesman. Fourth Bear has less backstory than the previous novel, but anyone acquainted with Fforde's Thursday Next series will easily catch up and enjoy the ride. Great fun for all fiction collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 3/15/06.]-Devon Thomas, DevIndexing, Chelsea, MI Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780143038924
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 7/31/2007
  • Series: Nursery Crime Series , #2
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 432,110
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.85 (h) x 0.73 (d)

Meet the Author

Jasper Fforde

Jasper Fforde traded a varied career in the film industry for staring vacantly out of the window and arranging words on a page. He lives and writes in Wales. The Eyre Affair was his first novel in the bestselling "Thursday Next" series. He is also the author of the "Nursery Crime" series.


Jasper Fforde is the author of four previous Thursday Next novels: The Eyre Affair, Lost in a Good Book, The Well of Lost Plots, and Something Rotten. He is also the author of the Nursery Crimes Series, featuring Big Over Easy and Fourth Bear. All of Jasper Fforde's books are available from Penguin. He lives in Wales.

Author biography courtesy of Penguin Group (USA).

Good To Know

Fforde's first novel, The Eyre Affair, received 76 rejection letters before it was published.

Fforde tells us in our interview that he got the idea for Pickwick, Thursday's pet dodo, from a visit to the Oxford Natural History Museum. "There was a stuffed dodo there and a withered foot and beak -- the only physical evidence aside from bones that they were ever alive at all," Fforde recalls. "I wandered for a bit and then asked the woman at the museum shop if I could buy a dodo home-cloning kit. She told me to come back in 20 years. That weekend, I wrote in Pickwick."

Fforde continued to reveal another fun fact: "The name of Thursday's husband, Landen Parke-Laine, comes from what happens if you are playing Monopoly and land on the first of the blue set -- a U.S. translation might be 'Landen Boarde-Walke.' Hence, his parents' names, mentioned in Lost in a Good Book, are 'Houson Parke-Laine' and 'Billden Parke-Laine.' "

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    1. Hometown:
      Brecon, Powys, Wales, United Kingdom
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 11, 1961
    2. Place of Birth:
      London, United Kingdom
    1. Education:
      Left school at 18

Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 65 )
Rating Distribution

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 65 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 20, 2009

    2nd, but not last

    This is my second Jasper Fforde novel, but it won't be my last. I loved the characters and Fforde's clever way of explaining nursery rhymes as crimes. I think I would have found it even funnier if I had recognized the allusions to the more obscure Nursery Rhymes. Guess I'm going to have to get a book of them. "The Bumper Book of Berkshire Records, 2004 Edition" excerpts were delightfully hilarious. I'm waiting for the book to show up in the U.S....

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2008

    Fun, Whimsical, and answered the porridge issue

    So I always did wonder why Mama bear's porridge was colder than Baby bear's.... This was such a good piece of work and I'm hoping that we'll see the next Jack Spratt novel soon (almost to that boxed set!). If you're considering anything from Jasper Fforde, go for it! These are some of the best books I've read. I laugh out loud, am sad when the characters are going through rough situations and cheer when things are figured out. The Gingerbread Man made a great villian and I'm curious to who the next one will be!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2014


    The combination of laughs and plot - top notch.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2012


    I love this series because it is a quirky romp with your favorite nursery rhyme characters

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2010

    Brilliantly Hilarious

    This book is witty and has a mind-boggling plot. Every word, every sentence is important as the pieces start to come together. If you didn't like this book, it might simply be because you haven't got it yet (no offense). I will note that I did not read the first of the Nursery Crime Series, so I have no way of comparing it as part of a series, but as a single book it's delightful.

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  • Posted July 9, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A Little Boring, Still So Creative

    I absolutely LOVE this author's style. Anyone who can take nursery rhymes and create murder mysteries replete with humor and satire is a major plus in my book.
    In the second installment of the Nursery Crime series, the Goldilocks and the Three Bears are caught in a national conspiracy and the Gingerbread Man is blood thirsty as ever. Obviously this is not a nail-biter (unless you suffer from Mother Goose phobia) but it is certainly clever.
    My only issue is that there are times when the story was a little boring and nothing irks me more in a mystery than when characters are introduced at the last minute who end up playing a pivotal role in the plot. I feel like it's a cop out and it cheapens the story.
    In any case, I do recommend this book if anything for the humor and to marvel at the twisted lives of our much beloved nursery rhymes.

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  • Posted June 9, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Almost gave up on this one

    A slow start to this story had me almost giving up before I'd gotten through the first 50 of 378 pages. The main problem I had with the start was the scenes were jumping around a lot, so a bunch of characters and locations were introduced in a short amount of time and it was difficult to figure out what and who were important and needed to be remembered. Eventually the story began to stabilize and focus, so I was able to get into it more. It ended up being a creative story with bits of nursery rhymes and other literature thrown in, but overall the story was a bit hard to follow. I had a hard time keeping track of all the characters involved and maneuvering the turns of the mystery. People who enjoy light-hearted mysteries may enjoy this read, however.

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  • Posted February 1, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    The Fourth Bear

    Jasper Fforde is something of a twisted genius. 'The Fourth Bear' is the second installment in his Nurserycrimes series (after 'The Big Over Easy' and Fforde brings the tongue-in-cheek commentary and hilarious wit in full force. 'The Fourth Bear' is a story about an escaped mass murderer (the Gingerbread Man), a conspiracy surrounding genetically modified vegetables, a missing reporter, ursine rights ("the right to arm bears"), domestic abuse, questionable existence and so much more. If Terry Gilliam were to write a book about fairy tale characters it is most likely this one. The plot goes from odd to manic at points, but if there is one thing Fforde does it's keeping the reader engrossed merely because of the interesting assortment of characters (human, paper mache, cake/cookie, alien, bear and more). This is one of the few books I will categorize as legitimately earning the "laugh-out-loud funny" description. But, don't be fooled by all the zaniness, there is actually a profound amount of social commentary and observation running in the lines of this story. Recommended for people who like to read, laugh, think and don't take themselves too seriously.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2009

    Very funny read

    This is a wonderful parody of British polices dramas and novels.

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  • Posted July 16, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Quick Read

    I picked up Jasper Fforde's 'The Fourth Bear' and was pleasantly surprised by how fluid the writing is and how easy it was to get through. A quick, entertaining read for anyone who wants to see an imagining story about what happens if fairy tale characters lived in the 'real' world.

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  • Posted June 14, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    The Fourth Bear

    I am almost at the end of the book and loving it!!!!! It's escapist reading at some of its best. You won't regret picking it up for a read.

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  • Posted April 6, 2009

    Fforde Fan

    This book follows the usual Jasper Fforde pattern. While seemingly childlike and straightforward, the story is actually told on multiple levels. Mr. Fforde's use of language is witty and left me laughing. A simple and easy read - but with many thought provoking undercurrents. I think this is one of his best.

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  • Posted February 3, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Liked the Fourth Bear

    I wasn't sure if Fforde could create another good Nursery Crime book, but he did! It was funny and I enjoyed coming back to this world. His imagination has given us an awesome twist on nursery rhymes.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 4, 2008

    Audio Version.....Sounded Fine

    I have listened to both audiobooks in the series and had no trouble adjusting to the different actors. Both do the job well. Give them both a chance before deciding not to have a go at this book. It was a wonderful listen. One only has to be flexable to change, and they will not have a problem adjusting to the actor's different styles.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 14, 2006


    Readers please note: most of the complimentary reviews posted here are for the hardcover print version of this book & NOT for the audio. There is a reason for is hard to write a complimentary review for the disappointing audio version of this highly anticipated book! I will never understand the concept of changing actors mid-series, unless someone has died. Did they not read the reviews? What could they have been thinking? 'Well, that was grand! Let's get someone else?!' Or 'First act was marvelous! Let's replace Richard Burton with Mel Blanc & see if that works.' They have the inspired Simon Prebble, who gets rave reviews for 'The Big Over Easy' and they replace him???? And they replace him with an actor who obviously does not read the previous book to research who his characters are so he can make intelligent choices about their sound. Quiet,unassuming, put-upon Reading native Detective Jack Spratt is given a big, barrel-chested London Bow Street runner voice. Gretel's German sounds forced and Ashley is, in a word, BORING. He has the chance to do an alien & he's boring??? And Prometheus!! He's turned an intelligent, deep thinking rebel into Zorba the Greek. Possibly the worst of! his choices is that he sounds as if he is reading to small children. Word association: 'nursery' = 'talk down to'. We can only hope the hardcover is a success then when Fforde writes another they can bring back the right Simon!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2006

    Tongue twisting good

    Set in an alternate reality, Jasper FFORDE continues the adventures of Detective Jack Spratt of the Reading Nursery Crimes Division and his sidekick Mary Mary. He invites us into the world behind the fairy tales and nursery rhymes. After all the characters do have lives of their own, don't they? Previously, in The Big Over Easy they saved the Nursery Crimes Division from being dissolved after Spratt failed to get a conviction for the three pigs' killing of Mr. Wolff, a.k.a. Big Bad, by solving the murder of Humpty Dumpty. In this second novel of the trilogy Spratt has been put on sick leave after rescuing Red Riding Hood and Grandma from the bowels of Mr. Wolff. Punch and Judy, marriage counselors prone to violence in their own marriage, move into the house next to his, the Gingerbread man escapes from St. Cerebellum's mental hospital for the Criminally Insane and Goldilocks the reporter has disappeared. She was last seen at the SommeWorld Theme Park where she was investigating strange giant cucumber explosions. The last people to see her were the Three Bears who live in Andersen Woods and have complaints about their porridge... An intelligent twist on nursery rhymes and riddles FFORDE creates compelling characters who are sure to keep you snickering throughout their surreal adventures with puns, satire and word plays. Full of literary allusions as well as delightfully entertaining (and a little mind-twisting as well) this series is great intelligent fun - perfect for light-reading.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 17, 2006

    The Gingerbreadman has Escaped!

    Jasper Fforde never ceases to amaze and delight with his books and this is no exception. DCI Jack Spratt and Sergeant, Mary Mary, are back, and I for one couldn't be happier. I would suggest that you read 'The Big Over Easy' for a little background on the characters and a few of the running gag lines, but this book is throughly enjoyable on it's own as well.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 2, 2006

    delightfully swift police procedural fantasy

    PDR, a Person of Dubious Reality to the illiterate, Reading Police Department Detective Criminal Investigator Jack Spratt of the Nursery Crime Division is as always in trouble with the brassy brass for literally his success in solving crimes. However, he wants to burn the book when he and his partner au contrary Mary, Mary is demoted to the Missing Persons department. He assumes this is to get him out of the way so that certain felonies turn cold case. --- They are assigned to learn what happened to Henrietta ¿Goldilocks¿ Hatchett. The investigation leads the two cops to the cottage of Mr. and Mrs. Bruin better known as part of the Three Bears where they find some relationship anomalies among the family members and their alibis seem phony especially the story about varying temperatures porridge pilfering. However, as the sleuths find clues, they feel their inquiry is continuously off kilter until they realize the dangerous serial killer Gingerbread Man is targeting Spratt the only man capable of bringing him down. With Goldilocks probably dead and the Three Bears seemingly innocent with that crime (fundamentally guilty of constitutional family infractions), Jack and Mary two times wonder if the Gingerbread man killed the girl or could there be a FOURTH BEAR? --- Using literally literary allusions Jasper Fforde provides a delightfully swift police procedural fantasy that as with the first Nursery Crime tale, THE BIG OVER EASY, uses a fairy tale to tear apart the hypocrisy of society. The prime story line uses Goldilocks and the Three Bears to show how easily one can purposely misinterpret information with questions such as why Mr. and Mrs. Bear sleep in separate rooms. Other characters skewer the up and down of I did not know corporate leaders, the three plus decade war on drugs, lying leaks, and no taxation or representation as the latest Jack Spratt tale is a witty satire. --- Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 14, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 7, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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