The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde

Posted February 19, 2020 by Amber in Reviews / 0 Comments

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The Big Over Easy

The Big Over Easy

by Jasper Fforde

Series: Nursery Crimes #1
Publisher: Penguin Books on July 11, 2005
Genre: Fantasy, Humor, Mystery
Target Age Group: Adult, New Adult

Rating: ★★★★

Check out this book on Goodreads

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 . . .

 

The Big Over Easy is a prime example of Jasper Fforde’s cleverness and control over the English language.  His worlds – always on the edge of some form of magical realism, if they must be categorized at all – are bizarre and curious, and never fail to be interesting.  Like the rest of his works, The Big Over Easy is a shining example of his wit and creativity.

I am typically a fast reader, but whenever I’m reading Fforde, I have to take things slowly.  If I read at my normal pace, I miss the subtleties in his naming and his clever turns of phrase.  Names are rarely just names – they are often mildly disguised puns intended to be revealed as the reader stumbles into them again and again.  In that way, his writing can seem a bit cheesy.  It’s not for everyone, but I enjoy it.

As for the story itself, The Big Over Easy asks: who killed Humpty Dumpty?  As expected, dear Mr. Dumpty sits on a wall and, as is easily predicted, has a great fall.  Jack Spratt is tasked with ruling whether or not it is a suicide or a murder, and he’s faced with numerous twists and obstacles.  His division (the Nursery Crime Division) is being shut down, a famous relic is coming through town, his old career nemesis is trying to scoop him, and his daughter is suddenly engaged to a Titan.  While not all of these things are out of the norm for Jack, they are still stressful.  There’s a lot of time in the book spent interviewing various suspects, with a few casual asides to Jack’s home life (which, while entertaining, were not altogether useful to the story).  The story feels like a regular cop show, and not as noir as I personally hoped.  There are quite a few twists, both of the expected and unexpected variety.

Here’s the thing with Jasper Fforde and his twists – you simply must accept them.  As with his Thursday Next series, whatever is least likely is probably what happened, and the more outlandish the explanation, the better.  For many other writers, this would result in an eye roll and shoving the book aside… but Fforde?  Somehow, he pulls it all off and does it brilliantly.  So if you read this book and guess the final twist, you’ve earned a cookie.  I was way off.

The characters were not very interesting.  While I felt like I got to know a couple of them a little bit, I never really felt like anyone stood out.  For me, this is a general complaint about Fforde.  Each character is given a history and quirks, but I’ve never had an emotional reaction to any of them?  This isn’t to say they’re poorly written, just that stylistically, character isn’t the most important thing here and it shows.

Pacing is what got me the most, and that was in part because of the excessive dialogue and witty comments – I was unable to immerse myself fully.  In addition to this, I was reading more slowly than I like to, and as such, made slower progress.  For whatever complaints I may have though, I can’t deny that Jasper Fforde is in a field of his own.  He defies genres and utterly messes with my rating system because I thought this book was fantastic as a whole… it’s just the individual pieces I didn’t love?  But when you mix them all together and add his voice, it’s a brilliantly fun story and I’m here for the next one.

Ratings Breakdown

Setting: ★★★★
Plot: ★★★★ 1/2
Characters: ★★★★
Writing: ★★★★
Pacing: ★★★
Personal Enjoyment: ★★★★

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The Big OVer Easy Stays on my Shelf

There are some books that you feel like reading at a certain time.  There are voices and styles and stories that appeal to certain moods.  For me, Jasper Fforde is definitely a mood read.  If I’m not in the mood for him, the book is hard to get through, but if I am?  I’m left chuckling.

Frankly, I feel like there’s a lot more for me to glean from The Big Over Easy and I have nothing against reading it down the line, particularly when it strikes my mood.  With that in mind, and with a particular appreciation of his writing, I would like to hang on to this one in my personal library.

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If you had to guess, who do you think killed Humpty Dumpty?  My bets were on a particular Greek mythological figure who may have honestly been dropped in as a red herring.  But what to you think?  Let me know your guesses – however outlandish! – in the comments!

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