SELECT * FROM uv_BookReviewRollup WHERE recordnum = 689 The Big Over Easy, by Jasper Fforde Book Review |

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The Big Over Easy, by Jasper Fforde
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Viking
Published: 2005
Review Posted: 10/10/2005
Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: 7 out of 10

The Big Over Easy, by Jasper Fforde

Book Review by David Roy

Have you read this book?

Done with the Thursday next novels for now, Jasper Fforde has given us a brand new world (or has he?) with The Big Over Easy, a noir-like detective thriller set in a world where nursery rhymes are considered part of reality, where Humpty Dumpty can have a great fall and the police will actually look into it, and where Humpty is a notorious womanizer to boot. While Fforde makes a valiant attempt, the book isn't quite as funny as it could be, but thankfully the story is interesting enough by itself that I can forgive it those little foibles.

Jack Spratt, Detective Inspector of the Nursery Crime Division (and killer of four giants, though only one of them was *technically* a giant, and he was absolved of all blame), has a mind-boggling case on his hands as the good egg Humpty Dumpty has fallen off his wall and died. Suicide is the first conclusion made by everybody, as he was depressed, seeking therapy, and acting very strangely. However, it wouldn't be a murder mystery if there wasn't a murder now, would it? Unfortunately for Jack, his superiors would like any excuse to shut down the Nursery Crimes Division, he's saddled with an assistant, Mary Mary (who insists that she's *not* contrary, thank you very much) who doesn't want to be there and who has dreams of becoming the assistant of the most popular Detective Inspector in the Reading Police Force, Friedland Chymes. Will Mary betray the case in order to get her position? And will Jack be able to figure out who murdered the egg without getting yolk on his face? And what's with those beans that he received in exchange for his mother's picture?

The Big Over Easy does a wonderful job of combining the mood of the typical detective novel and the world of nursery rhymes, with everybody taking them completely seriously. I loved the extrapolation Fforde makes for these characters, with Wee Willie Winkie having narcolepsy and Humpty being a philanderer as well as a philanthropist. Jack is just getting off of a case where he tried to pin murder charges on the three little pigs, saying their killing of the Big Bad Wolf was premeditated because it took them at least six hours to get the pot of water boiling. These sorts of flights of fancy are what really make the book, and I couldn't resist a chuckle or two.

I also liked the nods to mysteries, and how detectives gain more prestige by being written up in detective magazines, though it doesn't say much for the justice system that the jury bases a large part of its verdict on how famous the detective is. The mystery part of the book even has a wink to Agatha Christie in it, which was really nice. Fforde succeeds in making the characters come off the page in interesting fashion, making us care about how downtrodden Jack feels, the elation when he gets one over on Chymes, and the feeling that Chymes will be back next book and not very happy. How Mary is torn between her growing respect for Jack and her ambition to become Chymes assistant. Even the minor characters have their moments, and are interesting to read about when they're on the page.

This is a good thing, because as much as I'm sure I was supposed to, I just didn't laugh that much while reading this book. I had a chuckle or two, I was amused at times, and a couple of the chapter headings made me laugh out loud (like how the "Locked Room Mystery" has been laid to rest, but then it was found to have been murdered). Each chapter begins with a snippet from a newspaper account of something, often having something to do with the chapter it is in, but other times just being there for amusement's sake. These were often quite good (and as I said, occasionally made me laugh), but they did start to sound the same after a while. I found the idea that the ending centers around amusing, but the actual ending itself I thought dragged on a bit and lost its humour value very quickly.

Fforde doesn't really tie this book into the Thursday Next series, with the only reference being the aging starlet Lola Vavoom, so I hope this means that they aren't part of the same series. The change in venue really seems to have revived his creative juices, as there is a lot of neat stuff in The Big Over Easy Every time I thought of something that defeats the internal logic of this world, Fforde would offer up something that makes everything fit. His vivid imagination is what kept the Next series going, and I see that it will continue with Jack's series. That's a good sign. If Fforde can make the next book funnier without slipping into absurdity, then he will have a wonderful series on his hands. Jasper (if I can call you Jasper), you already have me interested in the characters. Make me laugh, and you'll have another sale.
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Comments on The Big Over Easy, by Jasper Fforde
Posted by Anon on 7/5/2014
Hi Erin. I read all four books in the Rhine Maiden series. I atuolsbely love them! Your books make me laugh out loud which was so refreshing since I am usually a smile while reading books kinda girl. I am hoping and praying for book 5 to come soon. Please tell me there are going to be more books! I really cant wait to read another! Your books made me never want to get off the train to go to work! I love them!!! You are AWESOME!