Gretel and the Case of the Missing Frog Prints

So, this was supposed to be funny, right?

OK, just checking. I apparently have no sense of humor, or a different sort, because this brand of humor eludes me. Or maybe it’s not so much the fact that a character ignores a body lying at her feet and declines to let it interfere with her dinner, but the way she does it. Hans (it’s a fairy tale takeoff, so where there’s Gretel of course there’s Hans) is appalling, and Gretel is despicable in the most literal sense of the word. It’s as though the author happened to be leafing through an exploration of the Seven Deadly Sins, liked the look of Gluttony and Vanity, threw in Stupidity, Snobbery, and General Nastiness, and dubbed it Gretel.

I would rather not talk about Hans’s friend Wolfie. I almost wanted to like the fact that he was once the Boy Who Cried Wolf, but this version of the story was so appalling that what might have been a clever touch just made the whole thing worse.

Or maybe it’s the sense that the author doesn’t like her own characters. I’ve complained in the past about having trouble getting past the fact that I hated all the characters in a book (*coughWuthering–Heightscough*), but as it turns out that might be slightly preferable to feeling like the characters were written with derision and distaste. “Here they are, these creatures I’ve come up with – I’m going to make fun of them quite a lot, enjoy.”

And then there’s the fact that most of her characters don’t like each other. Hans idiotically admires and maybe cares about his sister, but Gretel is contemptful of him. And all of the other relationships are equally rocky and uneven.

Gretel’s crowning achievement was to reveal the thief of the prints – in the midst of which she utterly betrays a confidence to a shocking degree.

It’s interesting how much time is spent talking about Gretel’s past cases, and the history of Han and Gretel, with this the first book in an apparent new series; at times it sounds like it ought to be the sixth or seventh entry. I have to give the author credit – it’s smart.

That being said, not much more time than that is spent on Gretel’s current case. More time – much, much more time – is expended on all the things Gretel eats and drinks and wears and buys. If all of that was excised, this would be a novella. Maybe – thinking of the extensive chapter about her horrific consumption of practically the entire stock of a cake shop – a short story. And my lord that ever–loving wig. I began to revert to grade school, muttering “if you love the thing so much, why don’t you marry it” – the narration even uses the word “lustful”. And it’s something she can no more afford, or need, than … well, put it this way. I have since I was small coveted a carousel horse. I want a full–sized, preferably restored, genuine wooden carousel horse. I have no explanation for it – I just do. But I don’t have space for it, or the use for it, and I certainly don’t have the money for it – so you know what I don’t have? A carousel horse. Because I’m not completely irresponsible and stupid.

Her stint as an accidental dominatrix was just annoying.

There is a description of one character that says something like “everything about him set Gretel’s teeth on edge” – and that’s very much how I felt about her. Because she’s an idiot, she flees from the policeman given the silly name Strudel. There’s a moment: “Gretel scanned the square for Strudel” – I would not have been at all surprised if this had meant she was looking for a snack. When she finally does run into him, unavoidably, it should have been tense and exciting … but the scene dragged out miserably.

When a long half hour from the end someone cries out “The wurst is coming!” I sighed. I wouldn’t, I decided, be surprised if the last twenty–nine minutes weren’t the worst.

And they pretty much were.

Totally justifiable motive for bludgeoning someone to death: someone started yelling and wouldn’t shut up. I sympathize every single day.

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