The Big Over Easy
by Jasper Fforde
Book 1 of Nursery Crimes
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 III, 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 . . .
This book just sucks you right in. And I'm entirely sorry that I'd set it aside in my attempts to get some other books finished, because I should have just kept reading. I most definitely would have finished it a lot earlier.
Slow paced as it is, it's also a lot of fun to read, and the investigation kind of intriguing to follow, even though Jack is the worst at jumping to conclusions before gathering all his facts. He's a great detective and all, you can see that, but I had to sigh at each time he came up with his conclusion about how Humpty Dumpty died, but then a new piece of evidence would embarrassingly make him eat his words--especially since each time he would be announcing his conclusions confidently to his boss. Granted, it's great that he readily continues on with the investigative flow once he finds out that there's more to the story than he'd thought, though.
Did anyone else get a sense of dramatic cliff-hanger after the end of each chapter when a new reveal was announced? The dialogue felt kind of dramatic, and I kept imagining the "Dun Dun DUNNN!" music in my head.
|I know the cards actually say "Dum Dum Dummm!" but I still love this gif.
Just me? Okay... Moving along...
The book itself was really just addictive and delightful, even if there are references dropped left and right about things you don't quite understand; but for the narration, seems perfectly natural to hear in everyday conversation, like how Rambosian's only speak in binary. Or how Prometheus can speak toddler gibberish, but not infant gibberish, or something like that. It's extremely silly some of the things that are narrated, but at the same time, in a way makes perfect sense.
I wish that some of the characters DID stand out a little bit more, but I feel like the book was so focused on introducing the world of the Nursery Crimes that it kind of sacrifices some character development. Specifically, Mary Mary's revelation somewhere at midpoint in the book felt like it should have been a bit more life-affirming... but we just kind of move on and so does she.
And the issue about Arnold is never really addressed, so I'm lead to believe that this might be a running gag throughout the series (what's left of it, anyway, since there's only one other book, and a third supposedly in the works).
On a side note, I was very amused by the references to Jack being a giant killer, then the scene where he has his mother's painting of a cow exchanged for magical beans just hit the spot. Especially when we give the scene more of an art fraud spin.
Meanwhile, I found myself enjoying the dynamics between the Nursery Crime Division, and liking the camaraderie between Jack and his crew. I'm also quite happy with the fact that Jack's personal life is depicted in such a healthy way, with a loving wife, great kids, and a basically stable relationship with all of them. I'm sure tense family relations are the "thing" now-a-days in a lot of books, but I like that Jack's wasn't angst-ridden.
The incorporation of all things nursery rhymes, fairy tales, mythologies, etc, was done quite cleverly, and worked really well to add to the Nursery Crime world as well as this book's plot, in general. And I also kind of liked the short newspaper articles at the beginning of each chapter... except when we got closer to the end and I just wanted to know how everything turns out... which, that twist at the very end of the book was interestingly... unexpected.
I would have liked to see more of a comeuppance for Friedland Chymes... but I suppose not everything has to be rounded out.
I will definitely be going onto the next book in this series, and just as well, will check out more of Jasper Fforde's work, having seen and heard a lot of great things about his Thursday Next series.
|Halloween Bingo 2018
(mystery with noir elements including authors like James Ellroy, Ian Rankin, anything that falls generally under the category of Nordic Noir, Tartan Noir, Granite Noir, etc.)
Other Possible Squares: A Grimm Tale; Murder Most Foul