Deirdre Madden continues Jasper’s adventures in Woodford, following Snake’s Elbows. Now free from prison after his misadventures detailed in the first book, Jasper, down on his luck and completely broke, becomes the gardener of Haverford-Snuffley Hall to search for the emerald necklace known as The Green Marvel supposedly hidden and lost there. Of course nothing ever goes to plan for Jasper, but can his efforts really be thwarted by a bat and two rats teamed up with a ghost?
Madden continues her successful formula, in this case the cat and two dogs being replaced by a bat and two rats. The tone is reminiscent of Roald Dahl in parts, with sarcastic and knowing humour, along with the narrator often directly addressing the reader, but the theme and plot are not particularly dark, unlike some of Dahl’s work. The characters are humorous yet flawed, and the inclusion of a quest in the rats’ narrative, with the addition of a ghost’s subplot, keeps the pages turning until the hilarious conclusion.
It is quickly established that no knowledge of the prior book is necessary to understand this one, but the hints of the previous book are so tantalising that sometimes it feels like they should be expanded upon. They will ensure that Snakes’ Elbows is quickly purchased and read. Faber and Faber choosing to release the first two books together hopefully means there will be future volumes, likely to continue with Jasper as the connecting link.