Thursday Next, Head of JurisFiction and ex-SpecOps agent, returns to her native Swindon accompanied by a child of two, a pair of dodos and Hamlet, who is on a fact-finding mission in the real world.
Thursday has been despatched to capture escaped Fictioneer Yorrick Kaine but even so, now seems as good a time as any to retrieve her husband Landen from his state of eradication at the hands of the Chronoguard.
It's not going to be easy. Thursday's former colleagues at the department of Literary Detectives want her to investigate a spate of cloned Shakespeares, the Goliath Corporation are planning to switch to a new Faith based corporate management system and the Neanderthals feel she might be the Chosen One who will lead them to genetic self-determination.
With help from Hamlet, her uncle and time-travelling father, Thursday faces the toughest adventure of her career. Where is the missing President-for-life George Formby? Why is it imperative for the Swindon Mallets to win the World Croquet League final? And why is it so difficult to find reliable childcare?
Welsh writer Fforde's fourth entry in the zany, hypercreative Thursday Next detective series revisits the "Literary Detective" as she retreats to her hometown of Swindon, England, retiring from the tedious job (as Head of Jurisfiction) she held in Fforde's previous novel, The Well of Lost Plots. Joined by her two-year-old son, Friday, pet dodos Pickwick and Alan, and Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark, Thursday realizes that there's someone missing: her husband, Landen, previously "eradicated" by the Goliath Corporation, a ruthless bio-tech conglomerate corporation. She wants Landen back. Aided by her father, she is reinstated into her old employ, the Special Operations Network, and begins investigating the machinations of power-hungry Fictioneer Yorrick Kaine and the mysterious disappearance of England's president. The fate of the world rests on the outcome of a major croquet tournament, with Thursday pinch-hitting on a lethal playing field as Landen is finally returned to reality (only to fade out again). More than a little wacky, the novel is packed with screwball details as characters get "written" in and out of the story, hybridized creatures stalk malls and Shakespeare clones start popping up everywhere. With humorous illustrations and curious footnotes sprinkled throughout, Fforde's latest will have hardcore fans roaring but those new to the series might want to tackle the convoluted mayhem from the very beginning.