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The Big Over Easy (2006)

The Big Over Easy (2006)

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3.91 of 5 Votes: 1
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0143037234 (ISBN13: 9780143037231)

About book The Big Over Easy (2006)

Was it an EGGcident…or cold-yoked murder? When Humpty Dumpty, local businessman and infamous lothario, is found dead beneath a wall outside his Grimm’s Road apartment, Detective Jack Spratt of the Reading (pronounced Redding) Nursery Crime Division (NCD) is called in to investigate. Jack is a smart, capable, no-fat eating investigator whose previous collars include the apprehensions of (i) serial wife-killer, Bluebeard, (ii) psychotic mass-murderer, The Gingerbread Man and (iii) a certain bridge-dwelling troll for threatening behavior against a trio of billy goats.However, despite his successful track record, Jack’s reputation is presently tarnishing in the crapper and his application for membership in the prestigious Guild of Detectives is in limbo. Why, you ask? First, there's Jack's history of giant-killing (4 so far), though Jack insists all but one were simply accidents. More troubling is his failed, multi-year prosecution of the three pigs for use excessive force in the death of Mr. Wolf has gone up in flames after the jury acquitted the pigs of all charges. A major blow to his career given that his boss felt the prosecution unwarranted. "How many people want to read about three disreputable pigs and a dopey wolf with a disposition towards house demolition?With his career prospects in tatters, the Humpty case comes along at exactly the right moment and Jack, together with his new partner, Ms. Mary Mary, commence an investigation into Mr. Dumpty's demise. Almost immediately, the pair find themselves embroiled in complex mystery involving stock-swindles, broken marriages, mafia boss Georgio Porgia, and the highly competitive world of commercial foot care. I found a smile on almost every page of this book and it's certainly what I would describe as a cozy, mood-lifter. That, and wickedly, wickedly clever. Jasper Fforde’s imagination is fertile, well tilled soil and he world-builds like a master craftsman. Sharing links with the world of Fforde’s long running Thursday Next series, Reading, Berkshire is a testament to his prodigious creatively. Nursery rhyme characters, mythological and legendary literary figures, blue aliens and even anthropomorphized plot devices all exists side by side with humanity in a mind-blowing bouillabaisse that Fforde makes work extremely well. Complex, unique and yet immediately accessible to readers, Fforde cultivates his bizarre territory with the suave, practiced adeptness of a slightly deranged artist. It’s clever, engaging, wonderfully whimsical and, most importantly, an E-ticket fun ride for the mind. For example, in a satirical poke at the mass media culture, one of the foundational premises of the novel is that detectives work cases not only to catch criminals, but also to do so in a way that makes them marketable as TV and magazine fodder. The Most Worshipful Guild of Detectives was founded by Holmes in 1896 to look after the best interests of Britain’s most influential and newsworthy detectives. Membership is strictly controlled but pays big dividends: the pick of the best inquiries of England and Wales, an opportunity to “brainstorm” tricky cases with one’s peers, and an exclusive deal with the notoriously choosy editors of Amazing Crime Stories. The Guild’s legal department frequently brokers TV, movie and merchandising deals, and membership usually sways juries in tricky cases…” This kind of light, intelligent satire can be found on just about every page of this tale. Fforde's prose is breezy and addictive and peppered with amusing turns of phrase and literary inside jokes. "Palindrome as well. My sister's name is Hannah. 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." However, Fforde doesn’t simply rely on word play to carry the day and his central mystery is quite well done. While it is certainly a vehicle Fforde uses to explore his world with the reader, it has substance of its own and Fforde treats it respectfully. Like Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett, Fforde's humor is not the kind that makes me bust out laughing so much as smile and nod in good-feeling appreciation for his crafty brilliance. One of my favorite aspects of the novel is that each chapter begins with a news article or other tidbit of information that provides insight into the Ffordes amazing world. For example: A controversial punishment came to an end yesterday when Prometheus, creator of mankind and fire-giver, escaped the shackles that bound him to his rock in the Caucasus. Details of the escape are uncertain, but Zeus’ press secretary, Ralph Mercury, was quick to issue a statement declaring that Prometheus’ confinement was purely an “internal god-titan matter” and that having eagles pick out Prometheus’ liver every day, only to have it grow back again at night, was “a reasonable response given the crime.” Joyous supporters of the “Free Prometheus” campaign crowded the dockside at Dover upon the Titan’s arrival, whereupon he was taken into custody pending applications for extradition. By the way, Prometheus turns out to be my favorite supporting character and his interaction in the story is terrific. Here is one of my favorite quotes in which Prometheus was communicating with Jack's infant son: 'You speak baby gibberish?' asked Jack. 'Fluently. The adult-education center ran a course, and I have a lot of time on my hands.' 'So what did he say?' 'I don't know.' 'I thought you said you spoke gibberish?' 'I do. But your baby doesn't. I think he's speaking either pre-toddler nonsense, a form of infact burble or an obscure dialect of gobbledygook. In any event, I can't understand a word he's saying.' 'Oh.' That should give you a good idea of the tone and flavor of the writing. A few other little gems that I thought were hilarious:** a law to make illegal the use of the “red herring” plot device.** The retirement party for the “locked room mystery” which ends in the ironic murder of same inside a locked room...this investigation is on going. **The Criminal Narrative Improvement Bill that, in an attempt to avoid unwanted clichés, would subject to a fine anyone who stumbles upon a corpse while walking their dog.Overall, this is a ton of fun. I can’t say I enjoyed this quite as much as the last Thursday Next novel I read, but it's certainly a smart, wonderful read. 4.0 to 4.5 Stars. HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION!

I started out thinking this book was incredibly cheesy. I had heard it was funny, witty, and clever but the first couple chapters just didn't hold my attention. However, I'm glad I persevered because it ended up being a charming book.Jack Spratt is the lead detective of the Nursery Crimes Division of the Reading police. While not as laudable as his colleagues in the regular division who are all a part of the Detectives guild, he nonetheless enjoys his job and does it to the best of his ability. Shortly after a new detective Mary-Mary joins him, they catch hold of a case of the murder of Humpty-Dumpty, who appears for all purposes, to have fallen off his wall.Quickly though the investigation discovers it is murder, Humpty has been shot! But there are so many suspects and so many motives. It doesn't help that super detective Chymes (2nd guild ranking) has decided he wants this case, and being the golden boy that he is, might just get it. Jack has to think quick and keep it out of his hands lest it become just another fabricated story for the presses. But the question is, will he be able to do this and solve the murder?The idea for the novel was very clever. Fforde puts in tons of bits of nursery rhymes, myths, and other stories into the work to keep the idea of nursery lives mixed with reality. One innovation he had that I didn't particularly care for was the Detectives Story Guild. While I'm sure its an integral part of this novel, I just got annoyed with all the references to it. I would have preferred to just read the story as a mystery without all the hoopla of trying to be a part of the guild.Fforde's writing style is very descriptive. As said before he borrows from a lot of sources to give substance to his novel and it did create a fairly believable fantasy world. There were some rather disgusting descriptions in this book, but nothing too violent or offend-able. I have to say though, some of his humor was the type where you chuckle a bit and then just groan. Kind of the feeling after a very bad pun has just been told.Rather funny was the picture on the back cover of Humpty's autopsy photos. They went over specific cracks in his shell, markings belonging to him, and of course the gunshot. Fforde also included an epilogue on what happened to everyone which provided a few chuckles.Overall though, the book was cute. I might be convinced to read some of his other works. I know there's a sequel to this one so I'll probably check it out next time I see it.The Big Over EasyCopyright 2005383 pages + some relevant pictures in the back of the book

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A little like Terry Pratchett for detective novel enthusiasts. I'm so happy I've found this author! In this first book of the "Nursery Crime" series, Detective Jack Spratt is assigned to look into the untimely death of Humpty Dumpty. After coming off an unsuccessful prosecution of the three little pigs for the first-degree murder of Mr. Wolff (by vicious, premeditated boiling), Spratt is depressed and harried. His job heading up the underfunded and woefully understaffed Nursery Crimes Division in Reading, England is about to get a lot more complicated. He's just been assigned a new partner, Mary Mary--contrary, ambitious, and just quite possibly able to be bought.What follows is so tongue-in-cheek, so outrageously pun strewn, you can't possibly think it could stoop lower, but it goes there. You might want to follow along with a copy of Mother Goose, and possibly Brothers Grimm and throw in a dictionary of Greek mythology as well. All done in a completely straight-faced police procedural format. *claps appreciatively* Well done! Exceedingly clever and precious, all round.Oh, and I would be remiss if I didn't mention the clips from local news stories included as an introduction to each chapter, for instance:"LOCKED ROOM" MYSTERY HONORED"The entire crime-writing fraternity yesterday bade a tearful farewell to the last "locked room" mystery at a large banquet held in its honor. The much-loved conceptual chestnut of mystery fiction for over a century had been unwell for many years and was finally discovered dead at 3:15 a.m. last Tuesday. In a glowing tribute, the editor of Amazing Crime declared, "From humble beginnings to towering preeminence in the world of mystery, the 'locked room' plot contrivance will always remain in our hearts." DCI Chymes then gave a glowing eulogy before being interrupted by the shocking news that the 'locked room' concept had been murdered--and in a locked room. The banquet was canceled, and the police are investigating."

At that moment one of the dogs got out of its basket, pushed forth its front legs and stretched. The hamstrings on its hind legs quivered with effort and at the climax of its stretch it lowered its head, raised its tail and farted so loudly that the other dogs glanced up with a look of astonishment and admiration. Oh the imagery – and the smellagery (?).You probably already have an idea what the story is about so enough of that.For me, this was an exponential reading experience. Like plain beef sausages “Who Dunnits” are on my dislike list. Like sausages, I keep trying them to see if they've improved since last time.At first, “I’m giving this one star because it’s a murder mystery, thinly embellished with nursery rhyme characters”. I kept on reading though.Then... “Hmm. Maybe It’ll just scrape in with two stars. It’s got interesting characters.”Then... “I’m bored. This book is too long. When is it going to get interesting? The author is just trying to mimic Douglas Adams.”Then... “Ho hum...I think I’ll give it away. Noooo...I’ve come this far, I’ll keep going.”Then... “Hmm. I wonder who did the murder. What was that nursery rhyme again – Solomon Grundy, born on Monday...?” (That’s not a hint.)Then... “Finally getting interesting. Must keep reading...”Then... “Wow! Great ending. I didn’t see that coming.”Still – it’s 3.5 stars because it was a bit too long. Douglas Adams it ain’t, but I’m still glad I read it, and he does come up with some witty and comical prose ala Monty Python. Perhaps I should be put in Septyck’s New Ward For Terminal Sarcastics.

In case you were worried: No, Jasper Fforde has not run out of weird, twisted things to do to defenseless Literature.Jack Spratt, his second wife, and their five children (two his, two hers, one theirs) are living happily in Reading, England. Well, reasonably happily. Jack, a policeman, has the dubious honor of being the head of the Nursery Crimes unit. He and his tiny unit believe in the importance of their jobs, but no one else does. And they've just experienced the embarrassing, and more importantly, budgetarily inconvenient, failure to convict the three pigs for the murder of the wolf. As icing on the cake, Jack's old rival, Friedland Chymes, has just wrapped up yet another big case, and is yet again basking in the glow of favorable publicity and departmental approval.But, on the positive side, DI Jack Spratt has a new assistant, DS Mary Mary, who just transferred to Reading fro Basingstoke—in the hope of working with Friedland Chymes. It's her ambition to be Official Sidekick to the great detective, writing up—and featuring prominently in—the great detective's adventures as recounted in Amazing Crime Stories. Instead she finds herself working with Jack—not even a member of the Guild!They quickly find themselves investigating the death of one of the many nursery characters residing in Reading, Humpty Stuyvesant van Dumpty, former teacher, millionaire, philanthropist, ex-convict, and egg about town. His death initially appears to be a suicide, but Jack and Mary make sure they cover all the bases, and discover that Humpty was shot, apparently by his ex-wife, who subsequently shoots herself. But something's wrong here, and they can't let it go.Jack, especially, can't let it go, when Friedland Chymes decides that he wants the case, and pulls out all stops in his efforts to force Jack to hand over the investigation. Jack quickly finds himself caught in the tangles of a plot involving money-laundering, smuggling, and bio-terrorism, while at home he's dealing with magic beans, beanstalks, his own unfortunate reputation for killing giants, and his new boarder, Prometheus. (Yes, of course that Prometheus; he's escaped and has applied for asylum, to the great annoyance of Zeus.)The Big Over Easy, like the later Tuesday Next books, has the advantage of being an outright fantasy world, rather than slapdash science fiction. And while some of the names, like Mary Mary's, are a bit sillier than they need to be, it's all in keeping with the nursery-rhyme backdrop, rather than the apparent pre-adolescent desire to get a reaction that seemed to inspire some names in the Tuesday Next books, such as Jack Schitt. The invention here is more firmly in the zany fun category, with few lapses into "silly enough to be annoying."(While Tuesday Next and her family, friends, and enemies are neither seen nor heard from, this is apparently set in the same world, and some of the minor characters, most notably Lola Vavoom, do make appearances.)Good, light summer fun reading.
—Lis Carey

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