Have you ever wondered what happened to the characters in your childhood nursery stories? P.J. Brackston has, and has built a snarky, silly world for them. In this one, we have a super-sharp, witty, and sarcastic Gretel and her somewhat slow brother Hans teaming up to run a detective agency. Really, though, it’s Gretel who does the investigating and thinking. She’s hired to find a bumbling sorceror who has somehow disappeared, leaving only his appendix behind. Gretel takes the case because she needs the money and easily unravels this twisty mystery-with-a-happy-ending. At the same time, Gretel lusts after a strong, silent type who she believes is the man of her dreams but who is apparently engaged to a stick-skinny countess. In the end, Gretel prevails in a most amusing and unexpected way.
Brackston has produced a funny, clever imagining of the adult lives of Hansel & Gretel, and a silly, breezy mystery as well. Definitely a departure from Brackston’s other work (think The Witch’s Daughter), this is reminiscent of Terry Pratchett’s work in it’s silliness, and is the fourth in the Brothers Grimm Mystery series. While this can stand on its own as a lighthearted, entertaining story, you will want to go back and read the first three in the series. Recommended.