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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Review: Once Upon a Crime

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Once Upon a Crime: A Brothers Grimm Mystery
by P.J. Brackston
Amazon  /  Goodreads

Plot Summary:

From New York Times bestselling author P. J. Brackston comes the prequel to Gretel and the Case of the Missing Frog Prints, the new novel in the rollicking series featuring Gretel, all grown up and working as a private investigator in 18th century Bavaria.

Gretel (yes, that Gretel) is now 35, very large, still living with her brother Hans, and working as a private investigator. The small, sleepy town of Gesternstadt is shaken to its pretty foundations when the workshop of the local cart maker is burnt to the ground, and a body is discovered in the ashes. It is Gretel who notices that the cadaver is missing a finger.

At first, she does not see this as significant, as her mind is fully focused on a new case. Not that she wouldn’t far rather be investigating an intriguing murder, but her client is willing to pay over the odds, so she must content herself with trying to trace three missing cats. It is not until she is further into her investigations that she realizes the two events are inextricably and dangerously connected, and that the mystery of the missing cats will lead her into perilous situations and frightening company.

Very soon Gretel finds herself accused of kidnapping Princess Charlotte, twice locked up in the cells at the Summer Schloss, repelling the advances of an amorous troll, strapped to a rack in Herr Schmerz’s torture chamber, and fleeing a murder charge. With dubious help from her brother (whose scant wits are habitually addled by drink), she must prove her innocence, solve the puzzle of the unidentified corpse, and find the stolen cats before they meet a grisly end.


The premise of this book was very eye-catching - a mystery with characters from the Grimm Brothers' fairy tales, and with Gretel as a detective.  Gretel being an interesting choice as a main character because you can see how her past has affected her and made her a stronger, more sarcastic and less trusting woman.  It's very entertaining to read about her in this story, but the mystery aspect as well as the inclusion of the fairy tale theme overall seemed very light.

The mystery was the biggest disappointment.  There were many odd threads to it, which made it difficult to predict or even comprehend what was the true mystery - it all seemed a bit of a jumble with the connection made much later and unfortunately past the point when I cared very much about the resolution.  I was hoping to see more familiar fairy tale characters besides Gretel and Hans, but there weren't many - just characters who would appear in fairy tales, like trolls and giants, and other colorful human characters.  It was a more realistic take on the world though, which might appeal to some readers.

The story is humorous, and Gretel has a fun way of looking at things, although the sense of humor was not quite my cup of tea.  It drew a lot from crass actions and characters, which probably did fit the setting (people were not as careful of their hygiene in the past) so that might also appeal to some readers and definitely helps to keep the realistic tone of the novel.

The novel has an unpredictable mystery, and a fun, mature heroine in Gretel but unfortunately many aspects of the story did not appeal as much to me.  I love the premise though, and if this continues as a series (this is a second adventure for Gretel) it might be fun to see where the author takes it.

(I received this book from the publisher or author for a fair and honest review.  I was not compensated for this review.)

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