Thursday, May 7, 2015

Review of The Woman Who Died a Lot by Jasper Fforde (Penguin, 2012)

With SpecOps reduced to just six divisions and having barely surviving a failed assassination attempt Thursday Next is four months into semi-retirement, living on the edge of Swindon with Landen, her husband, Tuesday, her genius teenage daughter, Friday, her disgruntled, edgy son, Jenny, her fictitious daughter, a couple of fictional characters and a dodo.  Swindon is due to be smited by an angry God in a few days time and the Anti-Smote shield, designed by Tuesday, is not yet working.  On the same day, Friday is destined to murder a sixteen year old boy.  And it seems that Jenny is a mind worm planted by Aornis Hades, one of Thursday's mortal enemies.  As well as dealing with these issues, Thursday has just been appointed Chief Librarian for the town and is immediately facing a one hundred percent budget cut as well a succession of Thursday impersonators and the continued unwanted attention of the Goliath Corporation.  With the whole family under threat, Thursday tries to unpick the deadly plot at play.

The seventh instalment of the Thursday Next series, The Woman Who Died A Lot has a somewhat different setting to the other stories, being set entirely in and around Swindon with no excursions into the BookWorld, and is very much a family affair involving the whole of the Next clan.  Nonetheless, like the other books in the series Fforde has produced a clever, inventive tale with a tangle of intersecting plotlines that all eventually resolve themselves after a number of scrapes.  There’s certainly a lot going on and it takes a bit of concentration to follow the various threads and logic, but Fforde does a good job of keeping everything on track.  Moreover, the characterisation is nicely done, especially Thursday’s children, Tuesday and Friday, and old enemies such as Jack Schitt and Aornis Hades also make appearances.  There is nice humour throughout, though it was of the smirking rather than laughing out loud variety, and a lot of the literary in-jokes and satire on modern living of the earlier books was largely absent.  Where the tale comes a little unstuck, however, is the ending, which felt a little flat and underwhelming given the extended lead-in.  It made sense, and set up the next instalment, but didn’t pack the wallop I was expecting.  Overall, a good, fun, cerebral read, but hopefully the next instalment will re-enter the BookWorld once more.

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