Once Upon a Crime

Written by P. J. Brackston
Review by Francesca Pelaccia

Once Upon a Crime is set in the fictitious 18th-century town of Gesternstadt, Bavaria, where the Brothers Grimm characters continue to live on, but without the happy-ever-after life factor. Gretel is all grown up, enjoying far too much hearty food, which is well-prepared by her beer-guzzling and slow-witted brother, Hans, indulging in the latest fashion garbs, and trying to make ends meet by working as a private investigator. Gretel would much rather solve the murder of the person found in the burned down workshop of the local cart maker but instead is hired by Frau Hapsburg to find three of her many cats. Gretel’s inquiries and investigation, however, leads her into many mishaps. She is accused of kidnapping the princess, twice locked up in the cells of the king’s castle, confronted by an amorous troll, strapped to a rack in the castle’s torture chamber, forced to flee from not one but two murder charges, and attracted to General Ferdinand Von Ferdinand, the hottest general she has ever laid eyes on and who likes his women whole and robust.

Once Upon a Crime is a Brothers Grimm Mystery and the prequel to Gretel and the Case of the Missing Frog Prints. P.J. Brackston has taken fairytale characters, fleshed them out with real life experiences and human frailties and foibles, dropped them into storybook-perfect towns, added a whole lot of humour and created a rollicking and entertaining novel. Gretel, the only character with a brain, is thoroughly enjoyable and relatable.

Once Upon a Crime is a light, refreshing, and humorous take on the fairy tale characters and stories that we all grew up on, with a generous splash of mystery and murder. I look forward to reading the further mishaps of Gretel and the world that P.J. Brackston created for the series.