17 August 2008

In the spirit of Jasper Fforde

At the Printers' Row Book Fair in Chicago this summer, Daivd discovered the Sisters Grimm books by Michael Buckley [right]. He read his way through half a dozen of them. When he came back from Chicago, he handed me the first in the series, Fairy Tale Detectives, and said, "You might like these, even though they're written for kids. I liked them and I'm not much of a kid anymore."

So when I ran off to Sdietrack one Saturday, I took the book along and read it. And it was fun to read and I'm trying to compare it to adult mysteries I've read recently. That's difficult since it's a variation on the world created by Jasper Fforde. (See also Fford Grand Central.) There are also elements of Men in Black.

According to Buckley, the Enlightenment was hard on magical creatures with supernatural powers. So they migrated to a little spot upriver on the Hudson called Ferryport Landing (originally Fairyport). There were led there by one of the Brothers Grimm, whose role in life was to record the history of these magical beings. Eventually, the Brothers Grimm had to get a cooperative witch to cast a spell on the area around Ferryport Landing to keep the magicals in and require them to assume human form. The Grimm family's occupation is passed down from generation to generation.

The Sisters Grimm (aged 11 and 7) inherited the family duty when their parents disappeared. They don't know it though, since their father was a rebel who ran away from Ferryport Landing and told his daughters that their grandparents were dead.

A wicked stepmother social worker finds their grandmother and drops the girls at Granny's door. Granny has to win them over and teach them their trade.

It just so happens that as they arrive in Ferryport Landing, it seems that Prince Charming is plotting to buy up all the Ferryport refuge and recreate his kingdom. And a giant has been seen.

What is really going on? Where did the giant come from? Why is Glenda the good witch helping Charming? And why is Jack the giant killer in jail?

It's a well-written and well-plotted little novel. I read it quickly and it was fun to read. And I never once gave a thought to incredible things since the whole thing is fantasy. Ferryport Landing is like Hogwarts. Anything can be real and anything can happen. So nothing is incredible. It was as enjoyable as some of the mysteries I've read in the past year.

Don't be put off by the "juvenile" label. David was right. I enjoyed reading Fairy Tale Detectives, and I might just read some others from the series.

If you read any of these books, let us know what you think.

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