A brother and sister of fairy-tale fame stumble from one complication to another in their search for a missing magician.
Years after escaping the gingerbread house, Gretel enjoys renown as the best detective in Gesternstadt. But determining whether the sorcerer Ernst Arnold is really dead is quite a challenge, for all that’s left of Arnold in his magicarium is his appendix and his pet bat. The insurance company won’t pay Frau Arnold if her husband isn’t really dead, and she can’t pay Gretel until it’s proven that he is. Though she decides to take the case on spec, Gretel negotiates with the insurance company for payment if she delivers proof of life. She needs the dough: not only does she have to keep her bon vivant brother, Hans, in “weisswurst and ale,” but she’s just ordered an expensive wig to charm the man she loves, Uber General Ferdinand von Ferdinand , away from his fiancee. Gretel finds a map of Arnold’s that sends her and Hans deep into the woods that still fill them with dread. Despite its beautiful hostess, a house of “vernacular architecture” is not the refuge it seems, and Gretel and Hans flee straight into a troupe of perpetually pickled pixies. Reluctant as Hans is to leave his new friends, Gretel has a job to do despite several attempts on their lives (von Ferdinand unfortunately rescues her while she’s not looking her best). Pressing onward with a cheerfully bromidic forest guide, the duo find what they’re looking for in a fanciful village populated with Germany’s Most Wanted and refugees from other Grimm tales. It’s up to Gretel to find a way out in an adventure that unrepentantly defies history (cocktails and cigarette lighters in the 18th century?) and follows up a beloved tale with farce.
This fourth series entry features a resourceful but not entirely lovable heroine, zany secondary characters, and the tendency to go for cheap laughs. Still, give Brockton (The Fickle Mermaid, 2016, etc.) high marks for creativity.