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Something Rotten: A Thursday Next Mystery    by Jasper Fforde Amazon.com order for
Something Rotten
by Jasper Fforde
Order:  USA  Can
Viking, 2004 (2004)
Hardcover
* * *   Reviewed by Nina de Angeli

In Something Rotten Thursday Next returns in a fourth series outing, this time back in her old job as a SpecOps literary detective in the so-called real world. After two years of living inside books (see The Well of Lost Plots) she is nostalgic for real sunsets and unpredictable events. She juggles day care schedules for her toddler son Friday while tracking down illegally cloned Shakespeares.

Hamlet, prince of Denmark, joins Thursday in her quest to find her missing husband, who was erased from time two years earlier by world-wide Goliath Corporation. Hamlet must go incognito because the unscrupulous politician Yorrick Kaine, backed by Goliath, has designated Denmark as a great enemy of Britain, burning all books by Danish authors in retaliation for the 9th century Viking invasions. In the course of the struggle against Kaine and Goliath, Thursday joins forces with her old friend the Neanderthal detective to fight an epic battle in a nightmarish croquet championship match.

Although Something Rotten is nominally set in an alternate 1980s Britain, Fforde's absurdist political satire hits the mark for U. S. politics. Toad News Network's popular show 'Evade the Question Time' in chapter 3 features Kaine using a mind control machine to promote his nefarious agenda, including war with Wales and Goliath Corporation's conversion to a religion worshipping the CEO.

Fforde wildly mixes conventions from popular fiction genres with cameo appearances by literary icons like Hamlet and historical figures like Emma Hamilton, consort of Lord Nelson. Once in a while Thursday even makes a side excursion into an old-fashioned American western, as in the hilarious opening shootout in 1870s Nebraska instigated by an elusive rogue Minotaur. Thursday uses an eraserhead gun, which vaporizes fictional characters into a brief chrysanthemum of text ... the meaning of the words evaporating into a blue haze. Recommendation read slowly to spot the inventive word play, or fast to keep up with the outrageous plot twists.

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