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Jasper Fforde

Something rotten

(Thursday Next #4)

For Maddy, Rosie, Jordan & Alexander

With all my love

Dramatis Personae

Thursday Next: Ex-operative from Swindon's literary detective office of SpecOps 27 and currently head of Jurisfiction, the policing agency that operates within fiction to safeguard the stability of the written word.

Friday Next: Thursday's son, aged two.

Granny Next: Resident of Goliath Twilight Homes, Swindon. Aged no and cannot die until she has read the ten most boring classics.

Wednesday Next: Thursday's mother. Resides in Swindon.

Landen Parke-Laine: Husband of Thursday who hasn't existed since he was eradicated in 1947 by the Goliath Corporation, eager to blackmail Miss Next.

Mycroft Next: Inventor uncle of Thursday's and last heard of living in peaceful retirement within the backstory of the Sherlock Holmes series. Designer of Prose Portal and sarcasm early warning device, among many other things. Husband to Polly.

Colonel Next: A time-travelling knight errant, he was eradicated by the ChronoGuard, a sort of temporal policing agency. Despite this, he is still about and meets Thursday from time to time.

Cat, formerly known as Cheshire: The ex-Wonderland Uberlibrarian at the Great Library. And Jurisfiction agent.

Pickwick: A pet dodo of very little brain.

Bowden Cable: Colleague of Thursday's at the Swindon Literary Detectives.

Victor Analogy: Head of Swindon Literary Detectives.

Braxton Hicks: Overall commander of the Swindon Special Operations network.

Daphne Farquitt: Romance writer whose talent is inversely proportional to her sales.

The Goliath Corporation: Vast, unscrupulous multinational corporation keen on spiritual and global domination.

Commander Trafford Bradshaw: Popular hero in 1920s ripping adventure stories for boys, now out of print and notable Jurisfiction agent,

Melanie Bradshaw (Mrs): A gorilla, married to Commander Bradshaw.

Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, Emperor Zhark, The Red Queen, Falstaff, Vernham Deane: All Jurisfiction operatives, highly trained.

Yorrick Kaine: Whig politician and publishing media tycoon. Also right-wing Chancellor of England, soon to be made dictator. Fictional, and sworn enemy of Thursday Next.

President George Formby: Octogenarian President of England and deeply opposed to Yorrick Kaine and all that he stands for.

Wales: A socialist republic.

Lady Emma Hamilton: Consort of Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson and lush. Upset when her husband inexplicably died at the beginning of the battle of Trafalgar. Lives in Mrs Next's spare room.

Hamlet: A Danish prince with a propensity for prevarication.

SpecOps: Short for Special Operations, the governmental departments that deal with anything too rigorous for the ordinary police to handle. Everything from time travel to good taste.

Bartholomew Stiggins: Commonly known as 'Stig'. Neanderthal re-engineered from extinction, he heads SpecOps 13 (Swindon), the policing agency responsible for re-engineered species such as mammoths, dodos, sabre-toothed tigers and chimeras.

Chimera: Any unlicensed 'non-evolved life form' created by a hobby genetic sequencer. Illegal and destroyed without mercy.

St Zvlkx: A thirteenth-century saint whose 'Kevealments' have an uncanny knack of coming true.

Superhoop: The World Croquet League final. Usually violent, always controversial.

Lola Vavoom: An actress who does not feature in this novel but has to appear in the dramatis personae owing to a contractual obligation.

Minotaur: Half-man, half-bull son of Pasipha, the Queen of Crete. Escaped from custody and consequently a PageRunner. Whereabouts unknown.

This book has been bundled with Special Features including:

'The Making of documentary, deleted scenes from all four books, out-takes and much more. To access all these free bonus features, log on to: www.jasperfforde.com/specialtn4.html and enter the code word as directed.


Frederick Warne & Co. is the owner of all rights, copyrights and trademarks in the Beatrix Potter character names and illustrations.


A Cretan Minotaur in Nebraska

'Jurisfiction is the name given to the policing agency inside books. Working with the intelligence-gathering capabilities of Text Grand Central, the many Prose Resource Operatives at Jurisfiction work tirelessly to maintain the continuity of the narrative within the pages of all the books ever written, a sometimes thankless task. Jurisfiction agents live mostly on their wits as they attempt to reconcile the author's original wishes and readers' expectations within a strict and largely pointless set of bureaucratic guidelines laid down by the Council of Genres. I headed Jurisfiction for over two years and was always astounded by the variety of the work: one day I might be attempting to coax the impossibly shy Darcy from the toilets and the next I would be thwarting the Martians' latest attempt to invade Barnaby Rudge. It was challenging and full of bizarre twists. But when the peculiar and downright weird become commonplace you begin to yearn for the banal.'

THURSDAY NEXT The Jurisfiction Chronicles

The Minotaur had been causing trouble far in excess of his literary importance. First by escaping from the fantasy-genre PrisonBook Sword of the Zenobians, then by leading us on a merry chase across most of fiction and thwarting all attempts to recapture him. The mythological half-man, half-bull son of Queen Pasipha of Crete had been sighted within Riders of the Purple Sage only a month after his escape. We were still keen on taking him alive at this point so we had darted him with a small dose of Slapstick. Theoretically, we needed only to track outbreaks of custard-pie-in-face routines and walking-into-lamp-post gags within fiction to be led to the cannibalistic man-beast. It was an experimental idea and, sadly, also a dismal failure. Aside from Lafeu's celebrated mention of custard in All's Well that Ends Well and the ludicrous four-wheeled chaise sequence in Pickwick Papers, little was noticed. The Slapstick either hadn't been strong enough or had been diluted by the BookWorld's natural aversion to visual jokes.

In any event we were still searching for him two years later in the Western genre, among the cattle drives that the Minotaur found most relaxing. And it was for this reason that Commander Bradshaw and I arrived at the top of page seventy-three of an obscure pulp from the thirties entitled Death at Double-X Ranch.

'What do you think, old girl?' asked Bradshaw, whose pith helmet and safari suit were ideally suited to the hot Nebraskan summer. He was shorter than me by almost a head but led age-wise by four decades; his sun-dried skin and snowy-white moustache were a legacy of his many years in Colonial African Fiction: he had been the lead character in the twenty-three 'Commander Bradshaw' novels, last published in 1932 and last read in 1963. Many characters in fiction define themselves by their popularity, but not Commander Bradshaw. Having spent an adventurous and entirely fictional life defending British East Africa against a host of unlikely foes, and killing almost every animal it was possible to kill, he now enjoyed his retirement and was much in demand at Jurisfiction, where his fearlessness under fire and knowledge of the BookWorld made him one of the agency's greatest assets.