The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde

For years I shelved Fforde’s books at the bookstore and always thought they sounded interesting, but never got around to reading one until a book group I’ve been longing to participate in met on a night I could attend.

I enjoyed The Big Over Easy. It’s actually a good mystery novel (not exactly hard-boiled, but it makes nods towards noir) and Fforde is brilliant at slipping in nursery rhyme characters & situations, and, of course, puns. There’s even a Greek God (Prometheus), an alien, a mad scientist, and a dinosaur. All of this fits in seamlessly with the regular, daily human life that we all know. Toward the end when I starting thinking let’s wrap this up already, something huge happened that completely caught me off guard that made for a thrilling end.

Jack Spratt is the hero of the book. He’s a good detective but doesn’t play by the current rules which revolve around running one’s investigations so that they make good story copy. The “best” detectives are members of The Guild, and the best of the best is Friedland Chymes. He’s the golden boy of the moment, the guy the press clamors after and whose stories the public wants to read and watch on TV.  He’s also a pompous ass. Jack Spratt is as far from being a golden boy as is possible. He’s an everyman and underdog sort of character. He loves his job, helps out his mother, and is happily married with kids.

The mystery begins when it’s discovered that Humpty Dumpty didn’t just fall off the wall, he was murdered. Jack has a new partner, Sergeant Mary Mary (as in quite contrary), who isn’t all that happy to be assigned to the Nursery Crimes Division. Friedland takes an interest in Mary and then wants in on the Humpty case. Why? A complicated picture of Humpty begins to emerge–about his love life (major lady’s man), his mental health (chronic depression, especially around Easter), and his business dealings (he’s into some odd commodities).

The book wasn’t laugh out loud funny for me, but there’s lots of good humor and Fforde’s imagination is a joy to behold. As is often the case with humor and parody, truth often lives in the absurd. I plan on trying his Thursday Next series.

Oh, and our book club discussion was a lot of fun although we spent an indecorous amount of time discussing how a male ladies-man-of-an-egg would go about doing all that humping.

The Big Over Easy
Jasper Fforde
Penguin, 2005
Recommend to: folks who like mystery with some humor, or humorous novels in general.
Source: library copy

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