he Fourth Bear is the second and sadly last current volume in the Nursery Crime series by Jasper Fforde. This may seem silly, but I didn't realize that Jack Spratt is the Jack Sprat (with one T) who could eat no fat and his first wife could eat no lean, which is why she died. I never heard of this nursery rhyme before. Being a Person of Dubious Reality (PDR) might not have been so bad if Jack had actually told his second wife Madeline about his condition. It's just like having an affair. It's better to fess up than to wait X number of years and have the person find out from someone else. If you do that, you'll move from screwed to very screwed faster than you can imagine.
So that was one plot. There are at least three in the book. The second plot was the escape of the serial killer Gingerbread Man from his mental health asylum. If that doesn't strike your fancy. perhaps you'll focus on killer cucumbers and conspiracy theories, or maybe who murdered Goldie Locks is more interesting. Perhaps, however, you are a big softie like me and will be enticed by the subplot romance between Marry Mary and Ashley the alien who both work at the Nursery Crime Division. Either way, this book has something for everyone and it's all wound together in a way that makes sense.
I rate this book an 8.5 out of 10. It's a lot more coherent than most Jasper Fforde. I think that he got all of his really weird stuff out in the Thursday Next series and the Nursery Crimes are his calmer versions--not that they are dull, just more understandable. I will eagerly be awaiting the third volume which is due by the end of the year, unless Jasper gets another delay. I hope that Mary Mary and Ashley get their stuff together because I'm rooting for them because (1) they are cute and (2) I want to see how someone as different as Jasper Fforde handles all the political hullabaloo of the first ever alien/human marriage. I know it will be the first one because this book told me so. I'll just have to wait and see like everyone else. Jasper has really grown on me. Not that I think he is the greatest thing since sliced bread as some people do. But I definitely like his stuff now. I didn't before.