Once Upon a Crime: A Brothers Grimm Mystery
by P.J. Brackston
Crime in eighteenth century Bavaria can be dark indeed, but there is one dauntless woman who will stop at nothing to shine a light on evil doings, so long as there is time for lunch, and a nap, and money enough for a decent pair of kitten heels.
Gretel (yes, that Gretel) has come a long way since her encounter with the witch in the woods. Now, as Bavaria's most renowned private detective, she has a home, an income, and a professional reputation. Sadly for her, that home is in a slumbering Bavarian backwater, that income is all too quickly evaporating, and that reputation is only as good as her last case. Which is why she cannot afford to be picky, as her brother Hans is rather too fond of pointing out. So it is that she agrees to take Frau Hapsburg's case (and more crucially her money) to recover her beloved cats, who have mysteriously vanished.
That very same week, the small, sleepy town of Gesternstadt is shaken to its floriferous foundations when the workshop of the local cart maker is burnt to the ground -- and a body is discovered in the ashes. When Gretel finds that fire is tied to the missing cats, her case takes a surprising turn and she soon finds herself accused of kidnapping a princess, twice locked up in the cells at the Summer Schloss, repelling the advances of an amorous troll, strapped to a rack in a torture chamber, and fleeing a murder charge.
With dubious help from her brother Hans (whose scant wits are habitually aided by drink), she must prove her innocence, solve the puzzle of the unidentified corpse, and find the stolen cats she has been hired to recover before they meet a grisly end.
Those who have read any of Brackston's "witch books" (written as Paula Brackston) won't recognize the author's writing here in a book that is totally different in style. While the witch books are generally serious in tone, Once Upon a Crime never takes itself seriously. If this book were made into a movie, I could see the Muppets' Miss Piggy in the role of Gretel, a plump and shallow diva who is more concerned about her wardrobe and her love life than solving a crime. But a single girl's got to make a living, and Gretel is quite bright when she puts her mind to the task at hand. This book is a fun romp through a fairy tale that will impress you with its cleverness and make you laugh out loud. If you need a break from heavy reading, pick up this lighthearted tale and escape.
About the author:
P.J. Brackston is the author of the New York Times bestseller The Witch's Daughter. She is also the author of Gretel and the Case of the Frog Prints. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University and is a Visiting Lecturer for the University of Wales. Brackston lives in Wales with her family.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book to facilitate my honest review. This post contains my Amazon affiliate link.