The Big Over Easy: A Nursery Crime
by Jasper Fforde
(Paper & Audio)
Everyone recommended Jasper Fforde. And I had heard such great things about the Tuesday Next series. But I received a copy of The Big Over Easy as a RABCK and grabbed one from an audio bookbox as well. It took me a while to get to this on my TBR shelf, but I'm so glad I did. I absolutely adore nursery rhymes (I think they're a basic cultural base that kids need to have) and I know them so well as to have picked up on all of the wonderful characters and situations used/referenced in this book.
Fforde really does create amazing characters. It was easy to identify with Mary Mary as she was introduced to the NCD (Nursery Crimes Division) and Jack Sprat, the head of that department. She is thrown into the middle of a tough case that seems so many times as though it was closed... but it wasn't! Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. Or... was he pushed? The cast of characters is really amazing--they're all quirky and fun, even the ones you don't like. But the mystery in the story is weighted just as much in the story and BOTH the characters and the complex mystery keep the story going. That's a rare thing, and Fforde does it with what feels like no effort at all. There were SO many twists and turns and I kept trying to solve it and failing. The ending was pleasantly surprising and highly entertaining. I kept finding reasons to jump back in the car so I could listen to more and find out whodunit!
Oh, and the world that is created--a world where police officers are celebrities and fictional characters become quite real, a world where the silliest fictional nursery rhymes/myths are converted into real investigative and judicial situations (though stay so faithful to the original)--is just so clever. At the beginning of each chapter, you get a fun clipping/story/report (like the trial of the straw-to-gold spinner who insisted the judge guess his name) that entertains and brings more depth to the world (though the characters do that just fine on their own as well). I also loved the illustration of Humpty in the front of the book. After I finished earreading the book, I went back through and read all the beginnings of chapters again.
The best thing about Fforde is the humor. It is precisely the kind of humor I like the most. It's dry and clever and deadpan. And I couldn't get enough of it. Seriously, this might just be the funniest fiction story I've ever read or earread. (I only say "might" because I can't honestly think of one I thought was funnier, but my memory sucks).
I put the second book on hold at the library and cannot wait to read it!