The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde

The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde

Reviewed by L.D.Y.

Hardcover (available in trade), 386 pages, 2005

Rating: 9/10

Reason for Reading: I’ve loved all of Fforde’s books.

Synopsis: Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall…or did he? Detective Inspector Jack Spratt is looking into the possibility that the hard-living, womanizing egg was actually murdered, with possible motives being jealousy, revenge, greed, pure evil. The (grossly underfunded) Nursery Crime Division, which also includes an alien and Sergeant Mary Mary, will have to battle to restore justice to their community.

Why you should read this book: The weirdest thing about The Big Over Easy isn’t that Fforde has characters from nursery rhymes looking for the murderer of Humpty Dumpty, but rather that he makes it all seem so normal. Literary-themed jokes flow, Jack Spratt pounds the pavement looking for answers, and when things get a little too off-the-wall, Fforde cheerfully acknowledges it with a little winkwink, nudgenudge straight from his characters. It’s not quite your average mystery novel, but in Fforde’s case, that’s a good thing. Try it when you’re in the mood for a mystery that’s kooky yet deadpan.

Why you should avoid this book: In an effort not to go too obvious by wrapping things up in the tradition of nursery rhymes, Fforde went a little overboard, as things don’t quite match up with the spirit of the rest of the book.

Opening paragraph:

It was the week following Easter in Reading, and no one could remember the last sunny day. Gray clouds swept across the sky, borne on a chill wind that cut like a knife. It seemed that spring had forsaken the town. The drab winter weather had clung to the town like a heavy smog, refusing to relinquish the season. Even the early bloomers were in denial. Only the bravest crocuses had graced the municipal park, and the daffodils, usually a welcome splash of colour after a winter of grayness, had taken one sniff at the cold, damp air and postponed blooming for another year.

Fabulous quotes:

‘Do they know they’re nursery characters?’
‘I think sometimes they suspect, but for the most part they have no idea at all. To the Billy Goats, Jack and Jill and the Gingerbreadman, it’s all business as normal. Don’t worry – you’ll get into the swing of it.’
Mary went silent thinking about how nursery characters could possibly not know what they were when Jack, suddenly remembering something, picked out his mobile and pressed auto-redial 1.
‘Hiya, Mads. It’s me. Tell me, did you get any pictures of Humpty Dumpty at the Spongg Footcare Charity Benefit?…No, Humpty Dumpty…Sort of, well, like a large egg but about four foot six….Yeah, but with arms and legs. I’d appreciate it. See ya.’

‘Not bonkers – just scared. It’s not a good idea to get on the wrong side of Zeus, what with all those thunderbolt things he likes to chuck around. Where is Prometheus at the moment?’
‘Have a look for yourself.’
She pointed at the connecting door to the living room. Jack opened it a crack and looked in. Prometheus was standing in front of the TV, supplanting and outranking it for the evening. He was miming all the actions as he told the children a story, and Megan, Jerome and Stevie were sitting in an attentive semicircle in front of him.

Also recommended: The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman; Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett; Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie.

Also by this author: The Eyre Affair; Lost in a Good Book; The Well of Lost Plots; Something Rotten; First Among Sequels; The Fourth Bear.

Author’s website:

Fun tidbit: There are ‘Special Features’ at – but you need to have the codeword from the book.

Would I read more by this author? Fforde’s books are a riot, so of course I would.

© Lisa Yanaky 2003-2007

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