Sunday, December 2, 2007

Group Review: The Big Over Easy

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 under appreciated 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. ~ Publisher's Weekly.

Jenn's Review:
This is an incredibly clever book, perhaps too clever for it's own good. It is not only a play on nursery rhymes but decades of detective stories. It's satirical writing at its most witty, which makes this book "not for everyone."

I found myself being torn away from the plot in an effort to catch all the references... and some of them I didn't catch until I was presented them a third or fourth time. The plot is delightfully twisty and, yes, far fetched, (but there's that satire again!) yet you can't help but be pulled into it. However I still found it all oddly distracting somehow...

If you are not in the mood for a lofty farce, this book is not for you. Someone who I think will enjoy it tremendously? My husband; it his style of humor... but for my final evaluation, would I read it again? Maybe not.

Final Take: 3.9/5

Julie's Review:
I liked this book, I didn't love it. I like the overall concept of the book. It's similar to what Gregory McGuire is doing with Wicked and Confessions of an Evil Stepsister. Jasper FForde is taking a topic we've all grown up with and making some insinuations regarding the classic nursery rhymes.

I liked the character of Jack Spratt. He's a solid character and of good morals. He's been ridiculed and stepped on but he still likes his job and feels that he's making a difference. Enter Mary, Mary a new detective with the Nursery Crimes Division and who frankly, doesn't want to be there. The case unravels and leads to a bunch of different characters who might have wanted Humpty Dumpty dead. The book is a bit slow and times and could have been wrapped up a bit sooner. I enjoyed the way Fforde incorporated the other nursery rhyme characters into the book and even chuckled when some of them were mentioned. Not only does he include nursery rhymes, but he even included a bit of Greek mythology in the book. I thought it was clever the way he wove that into the overall storyline. I did like that he didn't just add characters or subplots to incorporate nursery rhymes, everything had a purpose to the main plot. The crime itself lends a lot to discovering the real Humpty Dumpty and I felt sorry for him, even if he was not always on the up and up with his business ventures.

I would definitely read Jasper Fforde again, but I'm not rushing out to get his other books. I have enough on my bookshelf as it is right now.

Final Take: 3.5/5

Lisa's Review:
Humpty Dumpty - talk about an egg with a target on his back! Jasper Fforde crafted a clever, witty mystery using nursery rhymes. A very interesting premise with a few chukle-worthy moments. This was a slow read for me, witty as it was. I wasn't at any time fully engrossed in what I was reading. I did enjoy the twists and turns and the ultimate reason for Humpty's demise. Jack Spratt was by the best developed character and I enjoyed his simple everyman persona. I can't recommend this whole heartedly, but it's certainly good for chuckle if you need it.


Marg January 11, 2008 at 9:21 PM  

This is my least favourite of all Fforde's books. Fortunately he was back at top form for the follow up book to this, and definitely for all of his Thursday Next books...particularly the first four.

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