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The Big Over Easy: A Nursery Crime [Audio CD]

Jasper Fforde
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

August 2005
Jasper Fforde does it again with a dazzling new series starring Inspector Jack Spratt, head of the Nursery Crime Division

Jasper Fforde’s bestselling Thursday Next series has delighted readers of every genre with its literary derring-do and brilliant flights of fancy. In The Big Over Easy, Fforde takes a break from classic literature and tumbles into the seedy underbelly of nursery crime. Meet Inspector Jack Spratt, family man and head of the Nursery Crime Division. He’s investigating the murder of ovoid D-class nursery celebrity Humpty Dumpty, found shattered to death beneath a wall in a shabby area of town. Yes, the big egg is down, and all those brittle pieces sitting in the morgue point to foul play.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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From Publishers Weekly

Fforde's whimsical fifth novel, his first not to feature literary detective Thursday Next, is consistently witty, but its conceit—putting a criminal spin on nursery rhymes—wears a bit thin. Det. Jack Spratt, the dedicated but underappreciated investigator in the Reading, England, Nursery Crimes Division, is depressed because the court finds the three little pigs "not guilty of all charges relating to the first-degree murder of Mr. Wolff." Working with an ambitious young detective, Mary Mary ("Quite Contrary"), Spratt later takes on the case of "fall guy" Humpty Dumpty. Fforde crafts a police procedural out of this bizarre alternative universe that prizes, as The Eyre Affair does, literacy (detectives, for example, garner recognition less for solving crimes than by writing articles about cases for the likes of Amazing Crime Stories or Sleuth Illustrated). While it can be charming to encounter Mrs. Hubbard or Tom Thomm or to hear Spratt bemoan "illegal straw-into-gold dens" in this unusual context, the novel's broad satire overshadows elements like plot, conflict and characterization. The result is unusually clever but not compelling in the least.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Crime lies at the heart of the most innocent-seeming nursery stories: con games (The Emperor's New Clothes), counterfeiting (rumpelstiltskin), domestic violence (Punch and Judy), destruction of property and vigilantism (The Three Little Pigs). Fforde, who in his terrific Tuesday Next books (Something Rotten, 2004) enjoys deconstructing literature (Next is a cop charged with keeping the classics from falling into chaos), here launches a new detective series, set in Reading, England's no-respect Nursery Crime Division (their clues tend to come in threes). Detective Inspector Jack Spratt and Detective Sergeant Mary Mary are summoned to a trash-strewn and albumen-spattered yard where, at the foot of a wall, lie the mortal remains of one Mr. Dumpty. The British have a rich tradition of nonsense and whimsy, and Fforde is a worthy standard-bearer. But, as with puns, people are fans of silliness or they aren't, and as this book makes evident, literary in-jokes are more fun when the source material is more sophisticated. But Fforde is gaining fans, and even readers who start out groaning may find themselves grinning. Keir Graff
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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If Queen Anne hadn't suffered so badly from gout and dropsy, Reading might never have developed at all. Read the first page
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Marvelous Satire of the Detective Genre July 15 2006
By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Warning: This book is not about Thursday Next. If that's what you are looking for, consider instead The Eyre Affair, Lost in a Good Book, The Well of Lost Plots and Something Rotten (if you've missed on of the marvelous books in this series).

Jack Spratt Investigates the Big over Easy is a book that many will rate at less than five stars because they are pining for a Thursday Next book. But to be fair, I think we have to look at this book as though we had never read any of the Thursday Next series.

From that perspective, I thought that Jack Spratt Investigates the Big over Easy was a hilarious satire of the detective genre, reporters and police. I cannot think of a satire of those subjects I've enjoyed more.

The basic story is misleadingly simple. Jack Spratt is on his second marriage (the one to his wife who eat no lean didn't last because of her diet) . . . but still stuck in a rut in his career as head of the lowly Nursery Crime Division. Even that occupation is in jeopardy when Spratt fails to help gain a conviction of the three little pigs in the death of one wolf.

When Humpty Dumpty shows up in piece at the base of a wall, Jack's career may be about to go to pieces as well. Because of Humpty's notoriety, compulsive publicity hound (and former colleague) Friedland Chymes decides he wants the case. With never-ending intrigue all around him, Jack takes an inevitable walk through nursery tales that will seem both different and eerily familiar.

Keep your tongue firmly in your check . . . and giggle on! It's an unrestrained romp.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Humpty Dumpty had a fatal fall May 6 2007
By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Jasper Fforde first became famous for his Thursday Next books, hard-boiled detective stories set in an alternate, highly literate reality.

And in "The Big Over Easy," he changes his focus to nursery rhymes and folktales, with a bit of Greek mythology and Monty Python thrown in for good measure. It's not as clever his previous works, but still an amusing, humorous twist on your usual detectie story.

Sergeant Mary Mary has just been stationed in Reading, and is disappointed to find that she's been assigned to the Nursery Crime Division's Jack Spratt, who has a reputation for offing giants and losing cases. A murder comes up immediately -- alcoholic egg Humpty Dumpty is found shattered, but did he simply fall off the wall, or was it murder?

Spratt and Mary investigate a variety of suspects: a bitter ex-wife, a mad scientist, paramours, a foot-powder company owner. and a newly-released Titan who soon moves in with Spratt's family and falls for his daughter. But as the NCD approaches its end date, Spratt and Mary discover a horrifying conspiracy linked with Humpty's death...

"The Big Over Easy" was actually the first book Jasper Fforde ever wrote, but it was rejected for presumably being too strange. Well, it's not terribly surprising -- this detective story includes aliens, gods, genetic freaks, and three piglets who cold-bloodedly murder a wolf. And the beautiful plumage of a Norwegian blue.

It seems a lot like your average detective story, except these sleuths gain fame by selling their stories, and do autopsies on eggs ("They can't be certain, as so much of Humpty's albumen was washed away"). He cleverly weaves in various seemingly unimportant plot threads into the central conspiracy, right up to the solid climax.
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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  133 reviews
64 of 67 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Slightly scrambled Oct. 26 2005
By Amanda Richards - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is an early Jasper Fforde book that was rewritten following the success of "The Eyre Affair" and the rest of that series. Readers of "The Well of Lost Plots" will remember that Thursday Next vacationed in an unpublished book called "Caversham Heights", where she met DCI Briggs. This story also takes place in Caversham Heights, this time starring Detective Inspector Jack Spratt, who still eats no fat, and who heads the struggling Nursery Crime Division.

Jack has been very unlucky to be working in the shadow of popular Detective Friedland Chymes, and has just spectacularly lost a major case where the murderous three little pigs got off the hook for the death of the unfortunate big bad wolf. With the Department about to be shut down due to budget cuts and too few published cases, Jack gets a lease on life with the arrival of a contrary new partner, Sergeant Mary Mary and the messy death of Humperdinck Jehoshaphat Aloyius Stuyvesant van Dumpty, a.k.a. Humpty Dumpty.

As the book works its convoluted way to a grand and totally out of left field finale, be prepared to get brain strain trying to remember the dozen plus nursery rhymes thrown casually in the mix, as well as keeping track of the numerous and diverse characters, including an alien who speaks in binary, an aging movie starlet and a disgraced Greek Titan.

Although sometimes a little too clever for its own good, and too far fetched even for a fantasy, it's very entertaining reading, and a good choice for fans of Jasper Fforde.

Amanda Richards, October 26, 2005
39 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A tough case to crack Aug. 28 2005
By Eileen Rieback - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
When Humperdinck Jehoshaphat van Dumpty, better known as Humpty Dumpty, falls off the wall once too often and is shattered beyond repair, Detective Inspector Jack Spratt and his partner Mary Mary of the Nursery Crime Division of the city of Reading are assigned the investigation. The case turns from accidental death to one of murder. Dumpty was a womanizer and con man who had been involved in a lot of shady dealings and who had lots of enemies. Jack is still stinging from not being able to bring the three little pigs to justice for their wanton murder of Mr. Wolff. He wants to shake his reputation for having a poor solve rate for his cases, so cracking the Dumpty case is important to him. How can he solve this high-profile case and prevent the maligned Nursery Crimes Division from being disbanded? How can he keep superstar Detective Friedland Chymes from stealing the investigation from him? Why was Dumpty buying up all the shares of Spongg's Footcare stock before his untimely death? And most important of all, how can the resolution of this case make good copy for a future issue of Amazing Crime Stories magazine?

Author Jasper Fforde has switched gears from his Thursday Next series to begin a new series of hard-boiled police procedurals based on Nursery Crime cases. "The Big Over Easy" has many funny moments as Fforde places familiar nursery rhyme characters in unusual situations. There are puns galore, and humorous character names such as Hercule Porridge, Miss Maple, Lord Peter Flimsey, and Winsum & Loosum. Each chapter is prefaced with an excerpt from an imaginary book that covers a literary topic in this topsy-turvy world. Examples include the Ugly Stepsisters suing fairy tale publications for defamation of character, the testing of a transmutation device that worked temporarily when it turned a pumpkin into a coach, and the banning of the use of twins as plot devices in crime stories.

Fforde parodies detective fiction and nursery rhymes in an innovative and humorous way, but the world in which the story takes place is not as well developed as that in which Thursday Next lived. It is unclear which characters are from books and which are real, if any. Adding to the confusion is the inclusion of a binary-talking extraterrestrial alien. Whether the concept of satirizing a mix of nursery rhymes and detective stories will quickly become tedious or not remains to be seen (the next in the series will feature Jack and Mary in the case of "The Fourth Bear"). But in the meanwhile, I recommend this story for fans of the Thursday Next series, since it employs Fforde's trademark British humor and is an entertaining literary spoof.

Eileen Rieback
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Goes down easy Aug. 6 2005
By Carolyn Dee - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I always had a thing against traditional nursery rhymes. I thought they were just a little too violent for their intended audience. Thankfully, Jasper Fforde had the mind to expose the seedy underbelly of Humpty Dumpty's world and the truth is finally out.

Oh, to get a peek inside of the creative and imaginative mind of Mr. Fforde.

"The Big Over Easy" is a skillful work of art and it was a pleasure to read although I did do a little too much eye-rolling.

It's a perfect summer read, full of satire, wit, and plenty to make you chuckle out loud. I loved it!
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Marvelous Satire of the Detective Genre Dec 30 2005
By Donald Mitchell - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Warning: This book is not about Thursday Next. If that's what you are looking for, consider instead The Eyre Affair, Lost in a Good Book, The Well of Lost Plots and Something Rotten (if you've missed on of the marvelous books in this series).

Jack Spratt Investigates the Big over Easy is a book that many will rate at less than five stars because they are pining for a Thursday Next book. But to be fair, I think we have to look at this book as though we had never read any of the Thursday Next series.

From that perspective, I thought that Jack Spratt Investigates the Big over Easy was a hilarious satire of the detective genre, reporters and police. I cannot think of a satire of those subjects I've enjoyed more.

The basic story is misleadingly simple. Jack Spratt is on his second marriage (the one to his wife who eat no lean didn't last because of her diet) . . . but still stuck in a rut in his career as head of the lowly Nursery Crime Division. Even that occupation is in jeopardy when Spratt fails to help gain a conviction of the three little pigs in the death of one wolf.

When Humpty Dumpty shows up in piece at the base of a wall, Jack's career may be about to go to pieces as well. Because of Humpty's notoriety, compulsive publicity hound (and former colleague) Friedland Chymes decides he wants the case. With never-ending intrigue all around him, Jack takes an inevitable walk through nursery tales that will seem both different and eerily familiar.

Keep your tongue firmly in your check . . . and giggle on! It's an unrestrained romp.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nursery Crime Division -- Open for business July 27 2005
By Melthepest - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
To be honest, I was a little let down when I heard that the Nursery Crime series (re-tooled Caversham Heights) would be Fforde's follow-up to the Thursday Next books. I loved each and every one of Thursday's adventures, and never tire of re-reading them. I just wasn't sure if this story line would be able to hold my interest. I was able to get an advance copy, however, and I am glad to say that all my fears were ungrounded!

I was a little nervous because I am not really a big detective story fan. Jack Spratt and his reluctant partner, Mary Mary, thumb their noses at traditional detective stories however, which keeps the story fresh. The Nursery Rhymes that form the basis for the crimes in this book are very familiar. Jack comments several times that you know what's going to happen in the end, but you will be very surprised at what happens before you get there. The demise of Humpty Dumpty makes for an extremely complex and engrossing mystery. Funny, unusual crime thriller that will be impossible to describe to friends with a straight face. Here's hoping Fforde's next installment, The Fourth Bear, lives up to the high standards set by this series opener.
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