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The Big Over Easy
By Jasper Fforde

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The Big Over Easy

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The Big Over Easy
Jack Spratt Investigates A Nursery Crime
By Jasper Fforde
Thorndike Press - Large Print Edition (2006)
ISBN: 0-7862-8233-9
Genre: Mystery

Reviewed by Auggie Moore - March 3, 2006

I have to admit that I was very disappointed when I learned that Jasper Fforde's new book, The Big Over Easy was not going to be a Thursday Next story. However, once I started reading the book, my disappointment was quickly assuaged as I fell in love with a new character - Detective Inspector Jack Spratt! This amusing addition to Fforde's body of work set in the eccentric world of Thursday Next, where individuals can enter books and converse with the characters and when an outside force changes something in a story - the change is permanent and it affects all copies of the affected book.

In this whimsical mystery we meet the long-suffering Spratt, head of the Nursery Crime Division who is tasked with such duties as investigating a dead egg - namely Humpty Dumpty, who apparently fell off a great wall. Was it an accident? Suicide? Or something even more sinister? Working with Detective Sergeant Mary Mary, Spratt sets out to discover the truth about the death of Mr. Dumpty. Along the way we are treated to visits by such nursery notables as Old Mother Hubbard and the Three Little Pigs - a trio whom Spratt had brought up on charges for killing Mr. Wolf, but he failed to win a conviction and they were set free.

Written as a tongue-in-cheek satire of the detective fiction genre, Spratt has to deal with just about everything from sultry dames to his own self-doubts. Spratt's investigation could be taken right out of any police procedural novel - with the exception that nursery book characters turn up around every corner, and you never actually get a firm grasp on the rules that run this alternative reality. In the course of his investigation into Dumpty's death, Spratt discovers that Dumpty was not the golden boy portrayed in the media. In reality, he had a seedy side, was plagued with bad investments, was taken to drinking in excess, and he had more lovers than any man (or egg) had a right to - despite having a loving wife at home. Did the skeletons in his closet lead to his demise, or do they just shroud the truth? Spratt's investigation into Dumpty's past has a realistic, albeit bizarre feel about it, and just about everyone who has ever graced the pages of a Mother Goose rhyme is a suspect. In addition, red-herrings and plot twists abound, leaving you guessing until the very end about just what did happen, and why?

The Big Over Easy is an amusing mystery, and the nursery story puns are both droll and imaginative. (You might have to go back and reread some of them to truly appreciate Fforde's wit). I do have to say, however, that if you have read the Thursday Next books, you might not like this one as well, simply because it is different. Yet, if you read it with an open mind, you will find that it is a charming and well-crafted mystery. On the other hand, if you've never read the Thursday Next books, you are in for an eclectic introduction into an unimaginable world of literature that you are sure to enjoy, both for its wit and for the unusual mystery that is detailed in the The Big Over Easy.

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