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Jasper Fforde – The Big Over Easy

July 30, 2008

95. The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde (2005)
Nursery Crimes, Book 1

Length: 386 pages

Genre: Humor; Mystery

Started: 28 Jul 2008
Finished: 30 July 2008

Summary: The victim: one Mr. Humperdink van Dumpty, philanthropist, philanderer, alcoholic, and giant walking egg. Cause of death: falling off a wall… or was it murder? The detective: Jack Spratt, alleged giant killer (although three were just really tall people), and head of Reading’s severely underfunded Nursery Crimes Division, along with his new partner, Mary Mary. Jack’s been having his cases upstaged by the Guild-approved Detective Chymes, but if he can make the connections between Humpty, thousands of shares of a failing foot-care company, a giant beanstalk growing in his mother’s backyard, several of Humpty’s ex-wives and girlfriends, and several other assorted (and shady) characters ripped from the headlines of your favorite children’s stories, he might be able to save his department… and his career.

Review: Detective stories are not my normal cup of tea, but I’ll make an exception for Jasper Fforde. He’s in fine form here, while this book is not quite up to the standard set by The Eyre Affair, it’s more consistently funny and better paced than some of the other Thursday Next books (The Well of Lost Plots in particular, although that is where Jack Spratt, Mary Mary, and several other ancillary characters make their first appearance). It’s also more accessible, I think, due to the near-universality of nursery rhymes. We are not all as well-read in British literature as Fforde, particularly on this side of the pond, meaning that quite a few of the jokes in Thursday Next books go over my head. On the other hand, the Gingerbread Man, Miss Muffet, and Wee Willie Winkle are a lot more familiar, so poking fun at them is easier. Not to say that there aren’t still jokes that went over my head (references to British pop culture, for sure), but I felt like I was picking up on more of the humor. And it’s a funny book, with a relatively well-done mystery to boot. There are a few threads that seem like they weren’t worked in as well as they should have been, but as a brain-light, fun-but-not-too-fluffy summer read, it served perfectly. 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: The more you like mysteries, the more you’ll like this one, but even if you’re not a huge fan, it’s still an entertaining and enjoyable read.

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First Line: It was the week following Easter in Reading, and no one could remember the last sunny day.

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