Following the seemingly accidental death of Humperdinck Jehoshaphat Aloyius Stuyvesant van Dumpty (a.k.a. Humpty Dumpty), detective Jack Spratt of the police department’s Nursery Crime Division is dispatched to investigate. Jack, alas, has his work cut out for him as his department is grossly underfunded, underappreciated, and under intense scrutiny following Jack’s recent failed bid to win a conviction against the three little pigs for the premeditated murder of the big bad wolf. His new partner, Mary Mary, initially proves herself quite the contrarian, clearly unenthused with her new posting and secretly wishing she could instead team with the legendary Friedland Chymes, celebrity detective. But when the autopsy points to foul play, Jack and Mary find themselves fielding the biggest case of their careers. Colorfully shady characters abound and stunning secrets revealed as the investigation winds its way through the town of Reading. On the surface, Humpty seemed a good egg, but further revelations suggest he may have been rotten. Philanthropist, womanizer, shady businessman, he was loved by many, yet hated by a few as well – like his ex-wife, Mrs. Dumpty, and his business rival, Solomon Grundy. Did Wee Willie Winkie, the community’s resident narcoleptic, see anything the night Humpty took his great fall? Was imprisoned mob boss Giorgio Porgia involved? And who is the owner of the 23-foot long hair found at the scene of the crime?
Jack, our protagonist, who landed himself the nickname of “Giant Killer” following a series of unfortunate car accidents (Jack, however, is quick to point out that only one was a giant. The others were simply tall.), faces an uphill battle in his search for Dumpty’s killer, especially when beloved detective (and rival) Chymes tries to muscle in on the investigation. But, with the help of his new partner, Jack perseveres, juggling his professional commitments with a happy home life (his second marriage, the first ending with the death of his wife whose dietary preferences for non-lean cuisine lead to her premature end). Time and again, the pieces fall into place and yet, time and again, the slowly forming puzzle is upended by disclosures and discoveries that force our heroes to reconsider all that has come before.
Jasper Fforde’s The Big Over Easy is a riotous send-up of the hard-boiled detective genre, Mother Goose-style. Over the course of the book, the author skewers everything from Greek mythology to crime scene investigations, nursery rhymes to literary conventions, and, of course, our crime-obsessed media. The puns, gags, and subtle pokes come fast and furious, and the whole results in a dizzying but nevertheless delightful read. Fforde’s ability to deliver a complex and engaging mystery amid the off-the-wall humor puts him on equal footing with the likes of Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett. You doubt? May I present Exhibit A, Detective Friedland Chymes’ “cake-crumb scatter-pattern identification”. What? Never heard of it? No problem. Chymes explains: “This works on the principle that if someone lets cake out while talking, the crumbs are ejected from the mouth at different rates, according to the syllables of words spoken. By analyzing the pattern of crumbs on the table cloth, I was able to deduce that the conversation was not about the weather, as stated, but the misdiagnosis of botulism poisoning…” Need more convincing? Pick up the book and see for yourself.
An immensely entertaining read but not without its occasional hiccups. The fact that the supporting characters were not as well-rounded as our heroes, Jack and Mary, is a trifling critique, but the conclusion to the mystery proved a little more bumpy for this reader. Perhaps one too many twists and/or turns culminating in an ending that felt a tad scrambled (with apologies to the late Mr. Humpty).
Still, a fast, fun, and frenzied read and one sure to amuse all but the stoniest of curmudgeons.
So, what did everyone else think? Yes, I’m talking to you stony curmudgeons as well. Weigh in with your thoughts and let’s start posting questions for author Jasper Fforde In case you’re not sure what to ask or what not to ask, let me direct you to the author’s Question House, home to 316 of the most popular questions he has been asked…and counting (http://www.jasperfforde.com/qa1.html).
Hey, a very productive day on the Atlantis script front. I completed an astounding 12 pages. Turns out the key to both creativity and productivity is to wake early, start writing, and not stop until dinner. I’m having an especially good time writing for one character in particular. But he was always tons of fun to write for back when we were producing the series. And, no, it’s not who you think.
Interesting developments afoot that could see me posting behind-the-scenes pics and vids from the sets of Stargate: Universe much sooner than expected. Hopefully, we can work out the details this week…