The Big Over Easy

Posted by : atcampbell | On : November 21, 2006

The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde

Eleven of us gathered at A. T.’s house to talk about the first novel in Jasper Fforde’s “Nursery Crime” series. There was one first-time attendee, and we welcomed back three members we had not seen for a while. Six people had previously read Fforde. Eight of us finished the book, and another was halfway through and expected to finish it soon.

The Big Over Easy is a detective novel set in a fantasy world, where Detective Inspector Jack Spratt is investigating the murder of Humpy Dumpty. The book is a send-up of fairy tales and the detective mystery genre.

We liked how this book understands and follows the traditions and subtext of Mother Goose. Spratt and his assistant (the contrary Detective Sergeant Mary Mary) often use nursery rhyme logic. Jack gets uneasy when he’s around magic beans, and very tall people have a short life expectancy when they enter Jack’s vicinity. We noted references to a Grimm Forest and Andersen Woods, which are likely to provide fodder for future adventures.

The British mystery elements were amusing. In the world of this book, all detectives have assistants who write up their adventures and submit them for publication. Job advancement (and membership in the exclusive Detectives Guild) is largely based on publications, which the academic members of our group found amusing. The names of other prominent detectives (Inspector Moose, Miss Maple, Lord Peter Flimsy, etc.) were amusingly familiar. And in the course of this book’s mystery, we learn an awful lot about foot hygiene.

Beyond all that, Fforde created a deep and varied cast of characters. We grew to care about Jack Spratt and his wonderful blended family. In addition to being a good detective, Jack is a good parent. The way he handles his daughter dating a much older man is wonderful.

We liked other things. This book is clever and funny, and the jokes and puns are all thoroughly integrated into the story. Several of the book’s settings, particularly Castle Spongg, are memorable. A few of us commented that they felt this book’s this book’s cover and overall packaging were fabulous and appropriate.

We found this to be a clever, deep, and wonderful novel. Fforde is a treasure. After the meeting, we had a nice dinner at Red Robin.

— A. T. Campbell, III