I still don't know what I think of this book. I really liked some aspects; others were more than a little annoying.
First the good: it was interesting, in an understated way. The writing was more subtle than the Thursday Next series, which never lets you forget it's a fantasy. Not that that's a strike against that series; it's just a different feeling from the Nursery Crime series, which tries to pass as much as possible for a non-fantasy world (with living nursery rhyme characters).
Mary Mary's refusal to be ashamed of being from Basingstoke led me to find out from Wikipedia that the city has a public relations campaign built on the slogan "A Place to Be Proud Of."
Now for the annoying: Jack Sprat's home life seemed to offer very little for the amount of space it took up in the book. I understand the idea, as one review I read put it, that it was supposed to be a twist on the usual "detective with a dysfunctional personal life" plot element, but the mystery part of the story is what drives the reader, and it was put on pause a lot so we could read about Jack eating supper at home. Sort of a yawner.
Overall, enjoyable enough that I plan to read The Fourth Bear, although I get the general feeling that the Nursery Crimes series didn't pan out as planned.
Rating: five out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.