The Fourth Bear by Jasper Fforde; Narrated by Simon Vance
Medium: Audio CD
Publisher: Penguin Audio; Unabridged edition (August 3, 2006)
Genre: English Fantasy/Police Procedural. The second in the Nursery Crimes Division Series by Jasper Fforde. Mr. Fforde, according to the biography put out by Hodder & Stoughton, after the publication of his second book, worked for 13 years in the film industry is such fascinating positions as "focus puller" while writing, at first, for his own amusement. 76 rejection letters later The Eyre Affair was published.
Synopsis: Detective Inspector Jack Spratt and the other members of his team: Detective Sergeant Mary Mary and Detective Constable Ashley start with running a sting on the Great Red Legg'd Scissorman, who had stalked children in Cautionary Valley for over twenty years, performing thumbdectomies (snik-snik) on disobedient children who dared to suck their thumbs. While the operation results in the capture of the villainous Scissorman Jack is still chastised by the local press in the form of Josh Hatchett of The Mole for taking foolhardy risks with the children of the neighborhood.
Then, of course there was the recent cock-up when the wolf, despite Jack's best efforts, was able to swallow down Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother. Although they were rescued by the woodsman, they were still in a parlous psychological state. Of course should they ever come to their senses there was the possibility that they would sue the Wiltshire and Berkshire Constabulary. In fact Jack's career is hanging in the balance when it seems all hell breaks loose.
The Gingerbread Man, notorious serial killer and prize patient of St. Cerebellum's criminal hospital for the criminally insane, breaks out and erupts on a murderous rampage. Vegetable Growers engaged in Extreme Cucumber Competitions are blown up. Conspiracy theorists flourish as the Men in Green slink around. Punch and Judy, spouse abusers and marriage counselors extraordinaire, have moved in next door to Jack and his family. The illegal porridge trade is flourishing among the anthropomorphic bears of Reading. Goldilocks Hatchett, Josh's sister and an intrepid girl reporter, is missing--although it seems she might have been seen in Anderson's Wood near the home of Ursula, Ed, and Junior Bruin.
This book is better than the first in the series. Puns and jokes abound. And when you finish I invite you to visit The Official Nurse Crime Division Tour of Reading .
As for Simon Vance, the narrator of this wonderful mishmash, he is superb. Mr. Vance, who is a British actor and audio book narrator under this name as well as the names Richard Matthews and Robert Whitfield, is just as believable when he speaking the lines of a blue alien Rhambosian (Ashley), a seven foot tall rampaging cookie (or is he a cake?), and a pair of papier mache puppet marriage counselors as they hurtle crockery and vituperation at one another. His pacing is excellent and his voices distinguishable.
If you have a taste for fabulous nonsense (including that of Edward Lear) then you must get this audio book and listen to it at once.