A Nursery Crime, Book 1
Published: 6 January, 2006 (this copy)
Thorndike Press, Large Type Hardcover, 594p.
Meet Detective Inspector Jack Spratt, family mand and head of the Nursery Crime Division, long suffering under the shadow of the flashy Detective Friedland Chymes with his astonishing number of published cases in Amazing Crime Stories. Spratt is fresh from a spectacular failure to see three wily pigs convicted for the murder of a certain wolf. The media and tide of public opinion are set squarely against him. Now, new trouble is brewing. 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 Dumpty, minor baronet, lover of women, ex-convict, and former millionaire philanthropist, is found shattered to death. . .
Like The Eyre Affair, The Big Over Easy was a very imaginative and unique way to start a series. The world building is so well done that you don't even question the differences between the realities, and you would think that having characters from nursery rhymes would jar you out of the reading experience, but Fforde has merged the two so seemlessly that having Humpty Dumpty fall off his wall doesn't seem out of the ordinary.
The characters were well developed. Jack Spratt is ameniable, yet has some stored anger towards the obnoxious, egotistical and self-righteous Friedland Chymes. Mary Mary (quite contrary ;-P ) is the new cop on the beat. Her almost teenage level of adoration of the great Detective Chymes makes you want to slap her at times, but in all Mary is a likeable character and comes through for Jack Spratt in the end.
It is the murder of Humpty that stumped me. There were theories, plots and subplots that just seemed to keep coming. Just as Det. Spratt thought he had unmasked the identity of the killer... poof! New evidence turned up. Usually I have an idea - or at least a suspect - in mind as to the motive and identity of the killer, but in The Big Over Easy I wasn't even in the ball park! A great twist at the end turns the entire investigation on it's head.
I won't go into other character summaries as it may spoil your reading experience, but I will say that I was pleasantly surprised by this book. As an avid reader I still can't believe that it has taken me this long to find Jasper Fforde - thank you YouTube - but I will now be making a space on my bookshelves for the Thursday Next, and now Nursery Crime series.