Friday, January 14, 2011

The Big Over Easy: A Nursery Crime

The Big Over Easy is a great example of Jasper Fforde's British absurdest humor. His characters inhabit a world where nursery rhyme characters run around in society, yet everyone knows they are just non-real characters. They are all very British and have knowledge of nursery rhymes, yet still experience the characters as they would real people.

The principle character in this book is a "Nursery Crimes Division" officer, Jack Spratt. He was unable to get a conviction in his previous case (against three pigs convicted of murdering a wolf). Now he is investigating the death of Humpty Dumpty. It seems fairly standard, until he discovers the involvement of shoe companies and biological experiments. Jack also runs in to Prometheus who he invites to be a boarder at his house (Greek Gods that have been alive for thousands of years are not at all out of the ordinary.)

The main police force is part of the the "real world". However, it has some quirks. The force is dominated by the "guild of detectives" members. Detectives are chosen for the guild in part due to their success, but more importantly due to their ability to detail their success for the "Amazing Crime Stores" magazine. Jack has applied for membership in the guild, though he does not seem likely to receive membership. A former colleague, however, is a guild member, and attempts to obtain all of the strong convictions for himself. The department is also under budget constraints, and seriously considering disbanding the NCD. (The NCD is extremely short on budget, and a dumping ground for aliens and newbies like Jack's new partner, Mary Mary)

I read the sequel The Fourth Bear first and preferred it. Though the difference may be do more to the order in which the were read than anything else. It seemed to be more comfortable with the over-the-top inside-joke nursery-rhymes-in-real-life story. This one, however, is more of a traditional detective story, set in a very bizarre surrounding. (Ok, a very bizarre surrounding with plenty of funny moments.)

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