The Big Over Easy: A Nursery Crime - Jasper Fforde

"Father liked word games. He was fourteen times world Scrabble champion. When he died, we buried him at Queenzieburn to make use of the triple word score."

Jasper Fforde is the British author responsible for the Thursday Next series (of which I've read the first two), light-hearted mystery novels with plenty of puns, literary references, and more wordplay than gunplay. (See? An example for you.) The Big Over Easy is his first book in a new "Nursery Crime" series, and it's a good one.

Jack Spratt, head of the Nursery Crimes Division, gets stuck with any cases that seem to involve characters from nursery rhymes and fairy tales. This case involves the fall of Humpty Dumpty: was it suicide, an accident, or murder? There's a slew of other characters, familiar and new, most notably the new sergeant on the team, Mary Mary. Fforde's writing is usually a quick read, though whenever I came across names (Spongg, Ffinkworth, Chymes ...) I always had to stop to puzzle out whether they were anagrams, puns, or just odd names.

Each chapter begins with an excerpt from a fictional book or newspaper, adding a bit of backstory and flavor to Jack Spratt's world. A few favorites included a demonstration by albinos protesting their portrayal as deranged hitmen, and a ban on "identical twin" plot devices in solving murders. I do wonder, based on the number of incidental characters thrown in either in the story or in these epigrams, whether Fforde is going to run out of nursery rhyme characters too quickly. (A short list of the characters already seen include a Miss Muffett, Rumpelstiltskin, the Three Billy Goats Gruff, the Three Bears, and the Three Little Pigs.)

Colorful characters aside, it's probably not your typical mystery novel either (though I admit I haven't read many). Some things you may be able to guess before Jack and Mary, but it's full of plot twists, red herrings, and other mystery-novel cliches that are, of course, entirely appropriate in this world. The subplot involving beloved Detective Friedland Chymes is a good one, too, in a world where it's important for your crime-solving to look good in print.

If you're not a fan of wordplay, you'll probably tire of Fforde's books quickly. But I happen to love wordplay, so I'm looking forward to the next book.

On a different note, I believe this is post #400 for the Hungry Brain. Hurrah!

Fed to jonathan's brain | July 19, 2006 | Comments (0)


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