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The Big Over Easy: A Nursery Crime Paperback – July 25, 2006
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"Children of Blood and Bone"
Tomi Adeyemi conjures a stunning world of dark magic and danger in her West African-inspired fantasy debut. Pre-order today
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Jasper Fforde's bestselling Thursday Next series has delighted readers of every genre with its literary derring-do and brilliant flights of fancy. In The Big Over Easy, Fforde takes a break from classic literature and tumbles into the seedy underbelly of nursery crime. Meet Inspector Jack Spratt, family man and head of the Nursery Crime Division. He's investigating the murder of ovoid D-class nursery celebrity Humpty Dumpty, found shattered to death beneath a wall in a shabby area of town. Yes, the big egg is down, and all those brittle pieces sitting in the morgue point to foul play.
Read Jasper Fforde's posts in the Penguin Blog
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I was thoroughly entertained from start to finish!
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Suggested With: A good memory of your favorite childhood stories!
In THE BIG OVER EASY, first of the Nursery Crime series, it's still apparently Thursday's England because her first literary adventure, The Eyre Affair: A Thursday Next Novel, has been turned into a film. However, in this fantasy novel, the hero isn't Thursday but Detective Inspector Jack Spratt, chief investigator of the beleaguered Nursery Crime Division of the Reading Police Department. Jack labors under a cloud; his arrest of the Three Pigs for the murder of the Big Bad Wolf failed to result in their conviction, and Spratt has the undeserved reputation as a Giant Killer. As he constantly takes great pains to explain to hecklers, there was only one true giant, the other three were just "tall".
Jack's time on the clock is currently monopolized with the investigation into Humpty-Dumpty's apparent murder off Grimm's Road as he sat on a wall. His new assistant is Detective Sergeant Mary Mary, recently transferred from Basingstoke. In the meantime, everyday life goes on; Little Bo-peep continues to report lost sheep, there's the occasional malicious rumor that the sky is falling, pied pipers are wont to arrive in town promoting pest eradication scams, "nail flavor" instant soup is all the rage, aliens continue to deny that they're abducting anybody, the Titan Prometheus, having escaped the shackles binding him to a rock in the Caucasus, is renting an extra room in the Spratt family abode, and Jack's Mom is amazed at the size of the beanstalk growing next to the potting shed.
Fforde has his protagonist take the murder enquiry seriously because, in Spratt's world, it's deadly serious business. As are Spratt's frustrated professional ambition, his backstabbing more famous rival, Detective Chief Inspector Friedland Chymes, and Jack's skirmish with the Independent Police Complaints Commission over the dismal Three Pigs affair. Not to mention the fact that Spratt suspects that Prometheus is seducing his 20-year old daughter, Pandora. Yet, it's the other-worldly eccentricity of the milieu that's certain to provide the reader with certain, if perhaps inconsistent, giddy pleasures. Indeed, Fforde works up such a froth of absurdity that the conclusion to THE BIG OVER EASY seemed, to this reader, especially contrived. It's almost as if the author had backed himself into a plot corner and had to take desperate measures to extricate himself and the book to get the latter off to the publisher in time. For that, I'm knocking off a star. But it won't stop me from ordering and relishing the next volume in the series, The Fourth Bear: A Nursery Crime.
In all seriousness, though, The Big Over Easy is probably one of the most fun and energetic books I've read in probably the longest time. Good pacing, good writing, and an amazing idea all come together for the perfect idea for a story. Even the fact that Detective Jack Spratt and his deputy, Mary Mary, are investigating the murder of Humperdink Stuyvesnt Aloysius Jehosephat van Dumpty doesn't seem out of place in this refreshing novel.
There are so many places I could start with this book, but I think the best place to go would be the humour. The way it's written makes it one of those books that you're afraid to take out in public, because people are going to be giving you funny looks because you can't stop laughing. I have seriously had a whole Municipal train car full of people just sit and stare for a little bit. I didn't care, until I noticed, and put the book away quietly.
Sadly enough, I pulled it back out when nobody was looking and began to read it again, with the same result.
And while you may not be able to take it seriously as a murder/mystery novel, Jasper Fforde actually puts up quite an amazing plot. It's not one of those murders that you can just guess who did it in the first interview. It actually keeps you guessing very much of the time. Everyone always has their own theory halfway through the book, but Jack and Mary find enough clues to make you think you're absolutely positive, but still unsure enough as to keep avidly reading to find out what the deal really was with Mr. Dumpty.
The insane twists he puts on classic nursery characters is a riot, and on a lot of the pages, you'll find something that'll make you think of the old nursery rhymes you knew when you were younger, and are so creative, you can't help but enjoy them. [I'll spoil one for you: Willie Winkie is narcoleptic.]
I honestly can't say that I'll ever look at a nursery rhyme book the same way again, and really hope to see the next Nursery Crime book. [I've already read 'The Fourth Bear' as well, if that says anything.]