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#16 – The Big Over Easy

June 9, 2007

this is a book i write, all that we knew just a clueI think I’ve made it clear from the beginning how much I love books. If you’re like me, then I’m certain that you’ll like Jasper Fforde. I once heard Stephen Colbert describe The Decemberists as a “hyperliterate” band; well, the same brilliant adjective pretty well defines Fforde’s writing. He writes about famous fictional characters in a parallel universe where reading is far and away the most popular form of entertainment. He uses literary devices as plot twists, and once conducted a chase scene via footnote which is one of the best things I’ve ever read. I’ve read the four books in his brilliant Thursday Next series so far, but The Big Over Easy is the first I’ve read in his Nursery Crime spin-off. It didn’t disappoint.

In The Big Over Easy, police detectives modelled after Sherlock Holmes are the biggest celebrities in Britain, and successfully solving crimes is not considered as important as making sure their investigations make for interesting reading when published later in Amazing Crime Stories magazine. The hero of the book is Detective Inspector Jack Spratt of the Nursery Crimes Division, responsible for any crimes committed by characters from children’s stories. As the book opens, Spratt is just coming off his arrest and failed conviction of the three little pigs when he gets his highest profile case yet: Humpty Dumpty fell off a wall. OR DID HE?!?!? You get the idea.

Combining the hardboiled pulp detective writing with the nursery rhyme characters makes for some hilarious reading here, and Fforde writes so well that the story transcends the gimmick and is genuinely exciting in parts. He also subtly (and not so subtly) works in the fairy tale elements throughout the book: Jack Spratt’s first wife died because she only ate fat (she could eat no lean), he feels an inexplicable urge to climb the beanstalk in his mother’s backyard, and he’s killed four giants in the line of duty, so they call him “the giant killer”. The Big Over Easy has all the little touches of genius that made me love the Thursday Next books, but my only problem is that the rules of this universe don’t seem to be as clearly defined. If Thursday Next takes place in the “real world”, though, Nursery Crime takes place in a book within that world, so that might be the reasoning behind that.

I’m really looking forward to reading the next in the series, The Fourth Bear, but Fforde burned through so many nursery rhyme characters in this one, I don’t know who’s left but the titular bears. It’s going to be interesting.

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One comment

  1. […] Thursday Next series.  The last two things I read by him were the comparatively inferior spin-offs The Big Over Easy and The Fourth Bear, so I think I had forgotten just how great Fforde is when he’s at the top […]



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