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June 2005
The Big Over Easy
Review by Gemma Roxanne Williams

The Big Over Easy, by Jasper Fforde

A Nursery Crime Story

"It's Easter in Reading- a bad time for eggs- and no one can remember the last sunny day. Ovoid D-class nursery celebrity Humpty Stuyvesant van Dumpty, minor baronet, ex-convict, and former millionaire philanthropist, is found shattered to death beneath a wall in a shabby area of town. All the evidence points to his ex-wife, who has conveniently shot herself.

But Detective Inspector Jack Spratt and his assistant Mary Mary remain unconvinced, a sentiment not shared with their superiors at the Reading Police Department, who are still smarting over their failure to convict the Three Pigs of murdering Mr. Wolff. Before long Jack and Mary find themselves grappling with a sinister plot involving cross-border money laundering, bullion smuggling, problems with beanstalks, titans seeking asylum, and the cut and thrust world of international chiropody. And on top of all that, the JellyMan is coming to town . . ."

Fforde clashes genres in "The Big Over Easy", with an intriguing, often chaotic mixture of the typical whodunit and a glance at an adult world of children's nursery rhymes. What could have sounded like drunken ramblings; a giant egg killed, a police division dedicated to solving nursery related crimes, aliens working alongside the police, actually sounds witty and insightful, as well as brilliantly entertaining.

Through the medium of Detective Inspector Jack Spratt and his assistant, constable Mary Mary (yes, as in 'quite contrary') we encounter Mr Wolff and the three pigs, Mrs Hubbard (and her boneless cupboard), and are entertained with serious detective crimes such as the discovery of "illegal straw-into-gold dens" and asylum seeking Titans.

This frenzied combination of plots and characters from nursery rhymes alongside serious detective mysteries, with enough twists and turns to keep even the most hardcore mystery fans guessing, keeps the reader fascinated despite a sometimes weak plot. A sprinkling of characters and plots from other stories, ranging from children's tales to ancient mythology, keeps the reader guessing as well as looking forward to the rest of the nursery crime series.

Characters are well developed, from the loveable Spratt to the love-to-hate-him Friedland Chymes. Running alongside the chaotic mixture of these two worlds and the heinous crimes this produces, is the Most Worshipful Guild of Detectives, constantly complicating already complex cases, in order to produce a more exiting story for the "Amazing Crime Stories" magazine; considered by some to be more important than actually solving the crime.

This is primarily silly stuff, easy reading, and a good laugh; but Fforde has cunningly interspersed the story with serious issues and complex thoughts so that the reader feels it to be silly stuff well worth a read. Surprisingly clever, constantly engaging, and well worth a read. Bring on the next in the series!

By Gemma Roxanne Williams      To see the Hackwriters website click HERE

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