From Publishers Weekly
Fforde's whimsical fifth novel, his first not to feature literary detective Thursday Next, is consistently witty, but its conceit—putting a criminal spin on nursery rhymes—wears a bit thin. Det. Jack Spratt, the dedicated but underappreciated investigator in the Reading, England, Nursery Crimes Division, is depressed because the court finds the three little pigs "not guilty of all charges relating to the first-degree murder of Mr. Wolff." Working with an ambitious young detective, Mary Mary ("Quite Contrary"), Spratt later takes on the case of "fall guy" Humpty Dumpty. Fforde crafts a police procedural out of this bizarre alternative universe that prizes, as The Eyre Affair
does, literacy (detectives, for example, garner recognition less for solving crimes than by writing articles about cases for the likes of Amazing Crime Stories
or Sleuth Illustrated
). While it can be charming to encounter Mrs. Hubbard or Tom Thomm or to hear Spratt bemoan "illegal straw-into-gold dens" in this unusual context, the novel's broad satire overshadows elements like plot, conflict and characterization. The result is unusually clever but not compelling in the least.
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Hearing characters debate the implications of "illegal straw-into-gold dens" is attractive to a certain type of reader. Puns and silliness can certainly provide laugh-out-loud fun, especially when cleverly handled. But critics found this new series debut from literary jokester Jasper Fforde (The Eyre Affair
, **** Summer 2002, is from Ffordes first series, Thursday Next
) a tad shallow and wearisome. Fforde doesnt skewer nursery rhymes exclusively; he also spoofs mystery fiction protocol, including anagrams, secret twins, and butlers who did it. This is actually his most ingenious turn in an otherwise overlong send-up.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.