The Big over Easy by Jasper Fforde

  1. Vertigo

    Vertigo Mad Mountain Man

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    Take a big pot and throw in a murder mystery or two, add as many nursery rhymes as you can remember, simmer over a low heat for a few hours and serve. What you end up with might be something similar to The Big Over Easy.


    This is fairly typical Jasper Fforde fair; clever, witty spoof that makes for easy reading; the comedy more of the wry chuckle nature rather than laugh out loud; not quite as challenging as his Thursday Next books as most of us are likely to be more familiar with nursery rhymes than all the literary references in those books but, for me, not quite as much fun either.


    Fforde does shuffle his nursery rhymes a little which I found a touch confusing at times. For example one of the main characters, Detective Inspector Jack Spratt (he of the reluctance to eat fat) of the Reading Nursery Crime Division, has acquired a reputation for giant killing and finds himself strangely drawn to climb a giant beanstalk growing in his mother’s back garden. So don’t necessarily expect too slavish an adherence to the details of your favourite rhymes. But there’s plenty of fun to be had in a world where the characters from Nursery rhymes, both of the human and anthropomorphised animal variety, share this world with the rest of humanity.


    I may be reading too much into it but I also get the feeling that Fforde is having a none too gentle dig at the modern world of media and celebrity where a good story is far more important than a slavish worship of veracity, which is probably not a very Good Thing when applied to criminal investigations:

    “I read your account of the Shakespeare fight-rigging caper,” said the one named Hoorn. “I thought it impressive. The pace was good, you built the tension early, and you managed to keep it sustained throughout the story.” He shook her hand and added, by way of an afterthought, “And the police investigation itself was quite good, too—although if I’d been Flowwe, I would have let one member of the gang escape to add a small amount of tension to a recapture. You could have stretched the headlines over another two days.”


    A fun tribute to the absurd, The Big Over Easy is an enjoyable light read but for me not quite as good as The Eyre Affair. However it’s nice to find a book that points out the ridiculous number of murders that seem to take place in certain sleepy Oxfordshire backwaters and other similar places.
     
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  2. Dave

    Dave Wherever I Am, I'm There Staff Member

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    I think I also prefer his Thursday Next series (although I admit that this is the only Nursery Crimes book I've read yet.) I definitely rate Shades of Grey - one of my favourite books. Anyway, this book is completely filled with puns and jokes, some of which I believe must go way over the heads of most readers. I'll give you one example...

    In the past few years I've been doing a fair amount of doorknocking, walking around the streets of obscure housing estates. On occasions an entire new estate can be furnished with Freidland door bells. Their standard door bell push comes with a card which you remove and insert your own surname. It comes with "Freidland" already printed on the card, and it amazes me how many people leave it there and don't change it. There are vast areas of the south east of England that are entirely populated with people all called "Freidland." So, when I came to read The Big Over Easy I was surprised but very amused to see that one main character is called Freidland Chimes. I just wonder how many people get this joke, and also, how many jokes like it that I missed myself.
     
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  3. Vertigo

    Vertigo Mad Mountain Man

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    Well I've only read one from each series so I guess it's not too much to go on! And I have the second book in each series and the Shades of Grey all bought on a cheap deal; just haven't got around to deciding which should come next. It's not my normal kind of reading so tends to get bumped down the pile in favour of other SF stuff.

    Re the puns and in jokes I think I enjoyed those a little more in The Big over Easy in that they were more varied, in the Eyre affair they tended to be more literary. And yes I'm sure I (and most people) will miss loads of the jokes; I've never heard of Friedland door bells so missed that one completely, so thank you for the inside knowledge on that one :D.

    Looking back on the book now I think what I most loved was the wonderful parodying of the whole media detective thing from sidekicks to unreasonable crime levels in sleepy Oxfordshire villages; just brilliant.
     
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  4. Montero

    Montero Senior Member

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    I'd missed the Friedland doorbells too. This is a bit like Terry Pratchett - on re-read after a year or two will spot a joke not seen previously thanks to having lived a bit more in the meantime.
     
  5. Vertigo

    Vertigo Mad Mountain Man

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    I still regularly read from my collection of Asterix and Obelix books and equally regularly spot hidden jokes in the drawings that I've never noticed before. And I must have read each one in excess of 20 times over the years!
     
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