Jasper Fforde's The Big Over Easy is the first in his Jack Spratt detective series; a pastiche of nursery rhymes, fairytales and the 'real world' that is hilarious from beginning to end.
Detective Inspector Jack Spratt is head of the Nursery Crime Division, based at Reading Central Police Station. His job is to investigate all crimes involving nursery rhyme characters, with his new partner.... Mary Mary. Their Easter takes a complicated turn when Humpty Stuyvesant Van Dumpty III is found dead beneath his wall and they find themselves with one complicated murder to solve.
Not only does DI Jack Spratt have to solve the murder, he also has to gain a place in the Guild of Detectives, keep his division from closing and hold his arch enemy DI Friedland Chymes at bay as he tried to muscle in on Spratt's investigation.
Everything is funny about this book; the nursery rhyme characters who don't know that they are nursery rhyme characters, the nursery rhyme and fairy tale jokes and the appearances of the Ginerbread Man, Mrs Hubbard, Rapunzel and Willy Winkie, just to name a few. Mary Mary, well what can I say? She's quite contrary. And Jack Spratt seems to be blend of Jack Spratt and Jack from Jack and the Beanstalk. And that's right, you can expect an appearance from that magic beanstalk.
Fforde is at his best in The Big Over Easy with his plays on words and the fun he has with language in general. Take this extract for example from page 82. It's a discussion between Mary Mary and Tibbit (another member of the Nursery Crime Division):
“…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. He spent the greater part of his life campaigning to have respelt those words that look as though they are spelt wrongly but arent.”
“Oh, skiing, vacuum, freest, eczema, gnu, diarrhea, that sort of thing. He also thought that ‘abbreviation’ was too long for its meaning, that ‘monosyllable’ should have one syllable, ‘dyslexic’ should be renamed ‘O’ and ‘unspeakable’ should be respelt ‘unsfzpxkable.’”Fforde's cleverness and ingenuity never cease to amaze me. I was a big fan of the Thursday Next series, but I found The Big Over Easy to be a more fun and easy read. Some familiarity with nursery rhymes and fairy tales is essential to really appreciate this book, and thankfully I had thorough enough familiarity with them to really appreciate the jokes. I couldn't stop laughing the whole way through this book.
The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde is a funny and satirical piece of detective fiction, and one I recommend to everyone who likes to have a bit of fun with their reading every now and again.