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Humpty Dumpty had a lethal fall,
This review is from: The Big Over Easy: An Investigation with the Nursery Crime Division (Nursery crimes) (Paperback)
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.
Fforde writes it out in a straight-faced manner, no matter how absurd it gets -- in one scene Prometheus insists, "I was certainly NEVER in love with Asia. As I recall, she was myopic and couldn't pronounce her Rs." That doesn't mean he doesn't make it funny -- there are "realistic" versions of nursery rhymes and folktales, and a lot of terrible puns ("That's one seriously pickled egg").
Jack (who occupies the Sprat, Giant-Killer and Beanstalk roles) is a likable guy -- an underdog whose department is about to be disbanded, and whose reputation is laughable. But we also see him as a loving family man and dedicated cop, who just has bad luck. Mary starts off rather unsympathetic, but gradually we start to like her as she starts to like Spratt.
"The Big Over Easy" is a somewhat looser, more straightforward story than Fforde's other work, but it's still an entertaining, humorous detective story. And just what is the Sacred Gonga?