Book Review: The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde

Posted December 22, 2017 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 2 Comments

Book Review: The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde
Genres: Fantasy, Fairytale, Humorous
Published by Viking Adult on July 21, 2005
Pages: 383
Format: Hardcover
Source: the library

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Also by this author: The Well of Lost Plots, The Fourth Bear, Something Rotten

First in the Nursery Crime fairytale fantasy series that will make you laugh out loud. It revolves around the little-respected Nursery Crimes Division and Jack Spratt.

In 2006, The Big Over Easy was nominated for the Lefty Award.

My Take

I dunno. Cops today. They think they have it so hard. If they had to ensure that they made “good copy and their cases could be made into top-notch documentaries on the telly” to get a decent budget…” Then there’s the need for a good storyline with lots of drama and tension…

It’s dirty politics, betrayals, and good deeds from the most unexpected people. The conflict revolves around a good cop trying to do his job versus a conniving egoist who will do whatever he has to, to look good. It’s a slippery slope, and one that Jack examines carefully.

The idea of a Nursery Crime Division floats up from a case with Thursday Next in The Well of Lost Plots, 3, even though it is some plus-twenty-six years later (maybe longer, as Fforde notes it was formed in 1958 by DCI Horner). And you don’t have to, but I suspect you would gain a bit more depth out of The Big Over Easy if you read at least this third one in the Thursday Next series.

This story introduces Mary Mary from The Well of Lost Plots, and Fforde has his fun with Mary’s ambitions and her snarky but silent thoughts.

It’s her thoughts and others, combined with Jack’s that lead me to see The Big Over Easy as having a third-person global subjective point-of-view, an over-the-shoulder perspective, so to speak.

”Magic beans for a Stubbs cow.”

Additional humor pops up with announcements that various plot devices are being banned for being stagnant, etc., while those Guild detectives are busy fighting DNA and forensic science. Hard to get a good story out of science. That Fforde has got to be a fan of Indian Jones movies what with those comments from the three men dressed in dark suits and gray macs. The Nail Soup…ROFL… Yep, you can enhance nail soup all sorts of ways *laughing*

On a more real-world perspective, I do appreciate Lola’s take on curves and being the “perfect” shape.

Damn, that Fforde…*laughing*…he’s got a way with the egg and every other fairytale, nursery rhyme, and modern-day movie as well. You’ll love (and hate) his characters and adore how Fforde twists it all together into a modern tale of mystery. Wait. Until. You. Read. How Jack conquers the beast!

The Story

Well, it’s embarrassing really. Spratt has no rating at all in Amazing Crime Stories. In fact, he’s not even in the Guild. A real disappointment for Mary Mary.

Worse, for Jack anyway, is losing that case against the three pigs charged with murdering Mr. Wolff. Now Humpty Dumpty is dead, and Chymes is trying to angle his way onto the case.

After all, Chymes needs a brilliant story for the next Amazing Crime Stories edition.

The Characters

Detective Inspector Jack Spratt can eat no fat, has a bad rep as a giant killer, and still can’t get no respect. He’s been married for five years now to Madeleine, his second wife, a photographer. Jack’s two kids from his previous marriage to Sarah are Pandora and sixteen-year-old Ben (who plays tuba in school and has a pash for Penelope Liddell who plays harp) while Madeleine’s two kids are ten-year-old Megan and eight-year-old Jerome. Together they have year-old Stevie. Ripvan is their sleepy cat.

Mrs. Spratt is Jack’s old mother with lots of zest and way too many cats. Her friends include Mrs. Dunwoody, Mrs. Snodgrass, and Major Piggott-Smythe. Diane is Madeleine’s photography assistant.

The Nursery Crime Division is…
…part of the Reading PD with Spratt in command. It “covers all nursery characters, stories, situations, and directly related consequences of same”. The ambitious Detective Sergeant Mary Mary, who desperately wants to be a Guild-Approved Official Sidekick, is from Basingstoke PD and replaces DS Alan Butcher, a really tall guy. Arnold is the “boyfriend” Mary can’t get rid of. PC Otto Tibbitt loves wordplay. Constable Charlie Baker is a hypochondriac who has been dying for years. Constable Ashley (his real name is 10011111001000100111011100100) is a Rambosian who thinks in binary. He’s doing his best to assimilate. Constable the Baroness Gretel Leibnitz von Kandlestyk-Maeker is a specialist in forensic accounting.

The Reading PD
The trombone-playing Superintendent Geoffrey Briggs (who wants to change his last name to Föngotskilérnie) is in charge of Jack’s division as well as Chymes’. Wyatt is Briggs’ deputy. Mrs. Singh is the pathologist. Shenstone is Scene-of-Crime. George Skinner runs the armory and ballistics division. Agatha Diesel, Briggs’ partner, is a traffic warden with issues (also from The Well of Lost Plots). DI Drood is in missing persons. Major Lee Whriski is with the bomb squad.

Detective Chief Inspector Friedland Chymes is a jerk, er, a “powerhouse of a sleuth whose career is … inspired police work” …blah-blah-blah… “and a serious international player in the world of competitive detecting.” The “annoyingly chirpy” DS Eddie Flotsam is his “cockney assistant and biographer”. Other Official Sidekicks include Barnes, Hamilton, Hoorn, Haynes, and Seagrove.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission is…
…the police who police the police. DCI Bestbeloved is definitely not, and he’s investigating the three pigs’ complaint about police brutality.

The Most Worshipful Guild of Detectives was…
…founded by Sherlock Holmes in 1896 and helps the members broker TV, movie, and merchandising deals among other benefits — a good detective has to get his stories into Amazing Crime Stories, if he wants the accolades. Today’s members include Inspector Moose from Oxford, Miss Maple, Lord Peter Flimsey, Father Broom, Hercule Porridge, Rhombus from Edinburgh, and Inspector Dogleash. Brown-Horrocks is an observer.

Basingstoke PD
Mary Mary had served under Detective Inspector Hebden Flowwe (I believe the “H” is silent), who’s a prat.

Humpty Dumpty, a.k.a., Humperdinck Jehoshaphat Aloysius Stuyvesant van Dumpty III, was good company, very funny, a philanthropist, a crook with a heart, and a large egg with a business, Dumpty Holdings Ltd. He also lectured at Reading University on children’s literature and business studies.

Bessie Brooks, a veterinarian’s assistant, is his latest girlfriend. Seymour Weevil is Brooks’ solicitor. The ex-Mrs. Dumpty, formerly Laura Garibaldi, lives in Cheery Egg. The Garibaldi family is big in biscuits. Thomas Spatchcock is her personal trainer. Lucinda Muffet was his first wife. Mrs. Hubbard was the Hump’s landlady on Grimm’s Road. Prometheus is a fellow lodger and a Titan seeking asylum.

The Spongg Footcare Charity Benefit is…
…sponsored by Lord Randolph Spongg IV, CEO of Spongg Footcare PLC. Ffikworth is his valet. His home is Castle Spongg, a neosurrealist building built in the 1930s by Dr. Wolfgang Caligari after the car race ended badly for Count Igor Debrovnik and the Earl of Sudbury. Sounds like it could be an amazing funhouse!

Winsum and Loosum Pharmaceuticals is…
…a rival footcare corporation headed up by Solomon “Solly” Grundy. Miss Daley is the secretary to Mr. Grundy’s personal secretary’s assistant’s assistant. William “Wee Willie” Winkie works there and his supervisor is Whelan.

Rapunzel Grundy is Solomon’s wife. Callum is one of the stableboys. Stranger and Duke are some of her horses. Max and Spike are some of their dogs.

QuangTech is…
…a technology company. Find out how Cinderella’s pumpkin really turned into a coach.

The Sacred Gonga Visitors’ Center is…
…about to be formally opened and is the display place for a venerated object. Professor Hardiman is in charge.

The Goring Foot Museum
Tom Thomm is the son of the Reading Philharmonic’s flautist and a serial pig stealer. Professor Tarsus is in charge. Fay Goodrich is a lab assistant? Michael is a test foot. Hercules is a world-class verruca. Dr. Carbuncle, a brilliant research chiropodist, recently retired.

The Journalists
Josh Hatchett is with The Toad newsletter and The Mole. Hector Sleaze, Hatchett’s enemy, also writes for The Toad. “Skip” McHale is their entertainment correspondent. Clifford Sensible, the only serious journalist, is with The Owl. Archibald Fatquack is the editor of The Gadfly, a weekly gossip sheet. Jim Pearson is with the Reading Daily Eyestrain. Geddes is with the Reading Mercury. Bunty McTwinkle is a weathergirl on TV.

His Eminence the Jellyman is a VIVIP. Vaughan is his aide-de-camp. Part of the Jellyman protective detail includes Baines.

Lola Vavoom is a retired star of screen and stage from the 70s and 80s. Mr. and Mrs. Sittkomm are some of Jack and Madeleine’s neighbors. Miss Klaar is Megan’s teacher…and eats puppies, according to Johnny. Miss Dibble is another teacher. Brian Eves also plays tuba. Mr. Foozle runs the Paint Shop and gallery. Ralph Mercury is Zeus’ press secretary. Billy Gruff was one of the main lobbyists for the Animal Equality Bill. Charles Walter Pewter is a commodities broker and a partner at Perkupp and Partners. He also runs the Reading Temperance Society and a branch of Sarcastics Anonymous. Miss Hipkiss is his secretary. Dr. Murphy had been treating Winkie for narcolepsy. Jenny Shuttle is the leader of the Spinning & Associated Skills Labor Union. Percival Quick is with the Reading Planning Department with issues about the beanstalk. Professor Laburnum is with the British Horticultural Society. Mr. Silas is an albino.

Past Cases
Jack says Theophilus Bartholomew “Big Bad” Wolff was murdered by three pigs. Gerald was Little Pig A. Nigel Grubbit is the pigs’ lawyer. The Gingerbreadman was a serial killer years ago whom Jack and Wilmot Snaarb caught. The murders of Mr. Christian, a woodcutter, and his wife at Andersen’s Wood were “solved” by Chymes. Max Zotkin is/was with the Russian mafia. Charged with “ethically dubious medical experiments”, Dr. Deborah Quatt now works as a psychiatrist at St. Cerebellum’s. Giorgio Porgia was a notorious racketeer and underworld crime boss; he’s currently the governor of the prison. “Aardvark” is Porgia’s number one assistant in prison.

The Cover and Title

The cover is a bit dull, but I do appreciate the ink crosshatch. Very newspapery. However, it’s still dull with the deep royal blue band across the top with the author’s name in a 3-D white font on the left while we see the back of a liquor-swiggin’ Humpty dressed in a grey shirt, a red belt, and black pants, with the huge egg sitting on the wall on the right. The wall itself is a one big crosshatch of black over pale blue and is the background of the lower three-fourths. On the left side, there’s part of a hand holding a gun, pointing down. And Fforde introduces the title with a white “Jack Spratt Investigates” with the title in the same block-ish 3-D in a pale blue and white. At the very bottom on the right is a black-outlined red circle with a blindfolded duck in the deep, deep blue center with the series information following around in the red.

The title is the case name, The Big Over Easy, as Humpty Dumpty falls off a wall.

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