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The Big Over Easy: An Investigation with the Nursery Crime Division (Nursery crimes) [Hardcover]

Jasper Fforde
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (90 customer reviews)
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Book Description

11 July 2005 Nursery crimes

It's Easter in Reading - a bad time for eggs - and no one can remember the last sunny day. Humpty Dumpty, well-known nursery favourite, large egg, ex-convict and former millionaire philanthropist is found shattered beneath a wall in a shabby area of town.

Following the pathologist's careful reconstruction of Humpty's shell, Detective Inspector Jack Spratt and his Sergeant Mary Mary are soon grappling with a sinister plot involving cross-border money laundering, the illegal Bearnaise sauce market, corporate politics and the cut and thrust world of international Chiropody.

As Jack and Mary stumble around the streets of Reading in Jack's Lime Green Austin Allegro, the clues pile up, but Jack has his own problems to deal with.

And on top of everything else, the JellyMan is coming to town...

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton; Third Impression edition (11 July 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340835672
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340835678
  • Product Dimensions: 13.6 x 3.8 x 20.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (90 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 688,866 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author


After giving up a varied career in the film world, he now lives and writes in Wales, and has a passion for aviation.

To find out more visit Jasper's website, Facebook page or follow him on Twitter @jasperfforde.

Product Description

Amazon Review

The word of mouth on Jasper Fforde has long been enthusiastic, among those in the know. But now that his readership has expanded immeasurably, the expectations for such books as The Big Over Easy are considerable. And whether or not those expectations will be met by this new book depends on the readiness of readers to strike out in new directions--just as the author has done. Fforde’s speciality has long been the outrageous teasing of narrative forms, and there's a measure of that here, although more disciplined than in earlier books.

Rather in the fashion in which Stephen Sondheim exploded the world of fairytale in Into the Woods, Fforde here brings all the apparatus of the tough crime thriller to bear on the nursery rhyme. Minor baronet Humpty Stuyvesant Van Dumpty III has been found dead--and in pieces--beneath a wall in a less salubrious area of town. The perpetrator would appear to be his ex-wife, but she has shot herself. Detective Inspector Jack Spratt and his colleague Mary Mary are assigned to the case, and soon find themselves knee-deep in money-laundering, bullion smuggling and major problems with beanstalks.

This isn't quite the Fforde mixture as before, although he has previously favoured a crime motor for his plots. The skill in this outrageously entertaining (and rigorously plotted) concoction lies in a double conjuring trick: we are always amazed to find ourselves reading so assiduously about ludicrous figures (who become quite as interesting heroes as, say, Philip Marlowe) when common sense dictates only children should find such conceits entertaining. Not so! No child could appreciate the dazzling wordplay and witty imagination on offer here, and most readers will be more than happy to encounter detective Inspector Jack Spratt (and his contrary sidekick kick Mary Mary) again and again. --Barry Forshaw


This year's grown-up J K Rowling (The Sunday Times)

Now humour is notoriously subjective so what I've just described might just sound plain daft to you. But I love it. THE BIG OVER EASY is great not just because it's very funny but also because it works properly as a whodunnit. Comic genius. (Observer,Peter Guttridge)

A riot of puns, in-jokes and literary allusions that Fforde carries off with aplomb (Daily Mail)

I love it. THE BIG OVER EASY is great not just because it's very funny...but also because it works properly as a whodunit...Comic genius. (Observer)

A riot of puns, in-jokes and literary allusions that Fforde carries off with aplomb (Daily Mail)

Consistently clever (Publishers Weekly)

This is the first of best-selling Fforde's hilarious, absurd and utterly compelling new series of nursery crimes for adults. (Daily Mirror)

'Consistently clever' (Publishers Weekly)

'This is the first if best-selling Fforde's hilarious, absurd and utterly compelling new series of nursery crimes for adults.' (Daily Mirror)

'Fforde offers a cascade of puns, plays on words, surrealism, satire and verbal virtuosity...Astonishingly, he stays funny for 400 pages' (The Times)

'Fforde is a master entertainer, and a wordsmith of dexterous genius. He tosses in palindromes and anagrams like a tickertape of polysyllabic cleverness. A copy of this book should be free to all purchases of Scrabble.' ( The Scotsman)

'Fforde offers a cascade of puns, plays on words, surrealism, satire and verbal virtuosity...Astonishingly, he stays funny for 400 pages' (The Times)

'Fforde is a master entertainer, and a wordsmith of dexterous genius.' (The Scotsman)

'Fforde may be an acquired taste, but it's worth acquiring.' (SFX Bath)

'You want ridiculously brilliant? Look no further...' (Tower Hamlets Recorder)

'Jasper Fforde here mixes nursery rhymes with golden age detective fiction to produce something very accomplished indeed.' (Guardian)

'Fforde's writing, besides fast and sharp, is rather like an imaginative cloudburst falling to earth in rearranged pieces.' (Aberdeen Press & Journal)

'Fforde's books are more than an ingenious idea. They are written with buoyant zest and are tautly plotted. They have empathetic heroes and heroines who nearly make terribly mistakes and suitably dastardly villains who do. They also have more twists and turns than Christie, and are embellished with the rich details of a Dickens or Pratchett. As Humpty Dumpty's life-story is revealed, the mystery becomes curiouser and curiouser, and the compulsion to find out what is going on increases. A real treat.' (Independent)

'There is no more familiar genre than the detective story. The problem is that the sleuth story is now so familiar that it's in serious danger of getting boring. What's to be done? Jasper Fforde has the answer. Once you open this book, you'll find it very hard to put down. I've never read anything like this. And I couldn't get enough' (Daily Ireland)

'Fans of the late Douglas Adams or, even, Monty Python, will feel at home with Fforde' (Herald)

'If you haven't read Jasper Fforde before, THE BIG OVER EASY, is likely to come as a surprise . . . the combination of fantasy and (more of less) classic murder makes a wild and enjoyable change' (Sunday Telegraph)

'Clever plot lines, wit, and Fforde's unique humorous style ensures the reader is captivated from start to finish. A must for anyone wanting a light-hearted read in a class of its own.' (Good Book Guide)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Format:Audio CD
I have to admit this is not the usual type of book i like to read. I only really picked it up cos a friend was reading it and said it was good. I tend to read vampire and crime fiction, so this was completely different to my normal reading, but i thoroughly enjoyed it. I couldn't put it down.

The only thing i would say is wrong with the book is that it ended. I was so disappointed that i got to the last page, i just wanted it to continue on.

This is the first book by Jasper Fforde that i have read, but because of this i am now reading his others. He makes the characters of nursery rhymns and myths to be believable and 'real'. Well as real as any ficitional character can be.

So if you are looking for a book with humour, then pick this, it had me laughing out loud to myself, which got me a few strange looks for people in my works canteen i can tell you. It also has a crime so please that like a good mystery will enjoy, although it isn't your run-of-the-mill crime story, it has some great plot twists.

I would recommend this book to EVERYONE!!!!!!!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Humpty Dumpty had a lethal fall 7 May 2007
Jasper Fforde first became famous for his Thursday Next books, hard-boiled detective stories set in an alternate, highly literate reality.

And in "The Big Over Easy," he changes his focus to nursery rhymes and folktales, with a bit of Greek mythology and Monty Python thrown in for good measure. It's not as clever his previous works, but still an amusing, humorous twist on your usual detectie story.

Sergeant Mary Mary has just been stationed in Reading, and is disappointed to find that she's been assigned to the Nursery Crime Division's Jack Spratt, who has a reputation for offing giants and losing cases. A murder comes up immediately -- alcoholic egg Humpty Dumpty is found shattered, but did he simply fall off the wall, or was it murder?

Spratt and Mary investigate a variety of suspects: a bitter ex-wife, a mad scientist, paramours, a foot-powder company owner. and a newly-released Titan who soon moves in with Spratt's family and falls for his daughter. But as the NCD approaches its end date, Spratt and Mary discover a horrifying conspiracy linked with Humpty's death...

"The Big Over Easy" was actually the first book Jasper Fforde ever wrote, but it was rejected for presumably being too strange. Well, it's not terribly surprising -- this detective story includes aliens, gods, genetic freaks, and three piglets who cold-bloodedly murder a wolf. And the beautiful plumage of a Norwegian blue.

It seems a lot like your average detective story, except these sleuths gain fame by selling their stories, and do autopsies on eggs ("They can't be certain, as so much of Humpty's albumen was washed away"). He cleverly weaves in various seemingly unimportant plot threads into the central conspiracy, right up to the solid climax.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
This is a fantastic - and utterly silly book.

Imagine a world where nursey rhyme characters exist and live in Berkshire. A small, very underfunded department of the Berkshire Police exists to investigate crimes in this community, headed by the dishevelled DI Jack Spratt.

Next imagine that Humpty Dumpty had his fall but that it wasn't the suicide that everyone first thought it was.

Every page is absolutely packed with little references to anything from Hans Cristian Anderson to Monty Python. Jasper Fforde somehow manages to squeeze funny into even the most routine of situations. I found it hard to supress chuckling at every sentence. Even the little snippets of "news" at the start of each chapter are a joy.

Even better than this though is the book works as a fantastic murder mystery in its own right - beautifully and intricately plotted from start to end. You really want to know who offed Humpty. A whodunnit to match anything Agatha Christie could come up with (yes, Fforde references Miss Marple and Poirot too, along with Sherlock Holmes, Ian Rankin's Rebus and almost every other famous "dick").

I've never read any Jasper Fforde to date - I picked this up on a station waiting for a train (for once, thank God for BR delays!). I really can't find anything to say wrong about this book, with maybe the exception that it wasn't enough. Bring back Jack!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Cracking Good Read! 19 Oct 2007
Jasper Fforde is one of those authors I am extremely happy to have stumbled upon as I would never have found his books in a million years otherwise. A handy "3 for 2" offer at a high street book store soon sorted that out though!

The Big Over Easy is the first in a series of books by Fforde based around Reading's Nurcery Crime Division. The NCD is headed up by Detective Inspector Jack Spratt (with two t's) and it is their job to take care of any crimes involving nursery rhyme characters (who seem to frequent Reading). The department is laughably underfunded and understaffed and seen, by pretty much everyone else in the police force, as a bit of a joke.

This book centres around the investigation into the murder of Humpty Dumpty who was found in pieces at the bottom of a wall one night. Joined on the case by Detective Sergent Mary Mary, Jack Spratt follows the clues and leads while encountering other nursery characters and getting more and more baffled.

The book is wonderfully silly and had be laughing out loud many times, even when I re-read it oh holiday this year. A great book that's easy to read, I'd recommend this to anyone with a sense of humour.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars My new favourite author.
Love this book. Really difficult to put down and a really fun read.
Published 3 days ago by lali2008
4.0 out of 5 stars Cracking book
Humpty dumpty is dead. And what's more it looks like he was pushed. But there's more to this tale of woe as the nursery crime division of Oxford and reading instability are called... Read more
Published 21 days ago by Brian
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
It takes time to get into but it's worth the effort.
Published 1 month ago by Dr L Edwards
4.0 out of 5 stars Nursery Rhyme Crime
This book is a hilarious mash up of nursery rhyme material mixed with a modern crime/detective novel. It's so well written I can't even begin to explain how good it is. Read more
Published 2 months ago by kindler
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Original and a whole lotta Fun
Like a head on collision between a Police procedural and a fairy tale story. The Big Over Easy has to be read by everyone.Young and Old. Read more
Published 4 months ago by deano c
5.0 out of 5 stars fab
This had me in stitches! Its a fab story and could do with being a film on the big screen ... i would def go watch this.
Published 5 months ago by josie paige
5.0 out of 5 stars Surprised
I've read other Jasper Fforde books, but this was the best so far. I love the wit and working in of the nursery rhymes. Good fun!
Published 7 months ago by Ali Jarman
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
How did Humpty die?
Why did Humpty die?

The cleverest maintained slice of nursery story lunacy I have read, along with the sequel, "The Fourth Bear". Read more
Published 8 months ago by Cpl Skidmark
3.0 out of 5 stars Bit weird and a bit fun
Bought it due to the connection with Reading. Was unique to any novel I had ad before. Stuck at it in the hope all would become clear. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Santa JT
4.0 out of 5 stars gift
As this was a gift I can't really give an opinion on this book, but the person I bought it for liked it.
Published 9 months ago by Mr. P. Matthews
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