(Jump over to read a review of One of Our Thursdays is Missing)
(Jump over to read a review of Shades of Grey)
(Jump over to read a review of Thursday Next series )
(Jump down to read a review of The Fourth Bear)
"The Big Over Easy"
(reviewed by Shanna Shadowfax APR 25, 2008)
“Well, if I’m going to be a womanizing, pipe-smoking opera fanatic with a vintage car and a drinking problem, I’d better start getting into character.” –Inspector Jack Spratt, Nursery Crimes Division.”
Jasper Fforde has taken another twist on stories to provide fans and new readers alike with the bizarre and quirky criminal cases of the NCD (Nursery Crimes Division) in his own version of Reading, England. Fans of Fforde’s Thursday Next series that began with The Eyre Affair may recognize Jack Spratt who appeared in Well of Lost Plots and now has graduated to a story all his own. Inspector Jack Spratt has just been called in on the death of Reading citizen, Humperdinck Jehoshaphat Aloysius Stuyvesant van Dumpty, a.k.a., Humpty Dumpty. Putting the case together is going to be tough especially since Jack’s only got his partner, Mary Mary and not all the king’s horses and all the king’s men!
For first time readers of Fforde, be prepared for just about anything—including the kitchen sink, beanstalks, giants and bears (oh my!). The world that Jack Spratt inhabits is full of Nursery tale creatures, plot clichés, anthropomorphized animals and disturbing mad scientists. Jack is part of the less than illustrious NCD and just doesn’t get the kind of attention and acclaim that would get him into the Guild of Detectives. But this doesn’t deter Jack from pressing ahead to solve the case. It turns out the Humpty Dumpty may not have fallen off the wall at all—he may have been pushed! Or shot . . . or poisoned . . . or—well let’s just say figuring out what did—and didn’t—kill Humpty is no piece of cake. But with Jack Spratt and Mary Mary on the case, they’re determined not only to find the real killer but to unravel the dark plot in Reading that could be a danger to all its citizens. Fforde dives head first into the bizarre reality he’s created and summons more than a few chuckles from readers with his outrageous references. From mythological lodgers (Prometheus needs a place to stay), to conspiracies in foot care products, to really really mad scientists (she grafts kitten heads onto haddocks) the bizarre, the strange and the cliché flourish in the town of Reading.
The overwhelming range of characters and plot twists may leave some readers wishing they had a flow chart to keep up with events. However, given that this has been a facet of other novels Fforde has written; it may not be a problem for fans. Each chapter is introduced by a Reading news article or book excerpt about Reading that provides extra clues as well as additional chuckles. Fforde’s story is far from profound, however. It’s light, quirky and fun—and at times too clever for its own good. There’s a sense sometimes that the author reaches a bit to make a joke or throw in an extra gag—setting up events just so one of the characters can say the line that is the “zinger.” A little less of cleverness for the sake of it would have made the rest of the gags used more effective, since they would stand out and be less expected. By the second book in this series, Fforde appears to settle down a bit more with the gags and be more comfortable with the world he’s created.
Readers who enjoy books that take the traditions of crime-novels and lampoon them will likely enjoy this. It’s bizarre but fun—not a profound read, but certainly worth picking up and reading through at the beach or on a rainy afternoon. Thursday next fans will not find her mentioned in this series, as this spin off takes place in an entirely different set of characters and bizarre alternate reality rules. But fans of the other series will likely enjoy this one, since it has a similar flavor and writing style. Fforde pushes the envelope at times a little too far, but his imagination is certainly impressive. Jack Spratt’s adventures continue in The Fourth Bear, so there’s more mystery and mayhem in Reading yet to be uncovered!
- Amazon readers rating: from 113 reviews
"The Fourth Bear"
(reviewed by Amanda Richards MAY 15, 2004)
Who'd have thought that those old nursery rhymes and fairy tales would have had so much going on behind the scenes? Fresh from their largely forgotten triumphs in The Big Over Easy, Jack Spratt, Mary Mary and the rest of the Nursery Crime Division find themselves faced with new challenges.
The psychopathic killer known as the Gingerbread Man is loose, and true to his legend, he runs as fast as he can and you just can't catch him. Added to that, prize cucumbers are disappearing, mysterious explosions are vaporising chucks of real estate, Goldilocks is missing, and relationships with the bears are about to boil over due to porridge control issues.
Officially, Jack is off the case and in disgrace, and although Mary Mary takes over for a while, she is also busted on an overexposure charge. The Gingerbread Man case is given to David Copperfield, and there are no great expectations for solving it, but then again, you can't keep a good fictional character down for long.
If you thought that The DaVinci Code was startling, there are also many revelations in this book - a must-read if you want to know why the three bowls of porridge were at different temperatures, if gingerbread is a cake or a cookie, and why deals from used car salesmen are often too good to be true.
- Amazon readers rating: from 70 reviews
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
Thursday Next Series:
- The Eyre Affair (2002)
- Lost in a Good Book (2003)
- The Well of Lost Plots (2004)
- Something Rotten (2004)
- First Amongst Sequels (2007)
- One of our Thursdays is Missing (2011)
- The Woman Who Died a Lot (October 2012)
- Shades of Grey (2010)
The Dragonslayer Series:
- The Last Dragonslayer (2010 UK; October 2012 US)
- The Song of the Quarkbeast (2011 UK; 2013 US)
- The Return of Shandar (2012 UK; 2014 US)
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- The official website for Jasper Fforde
- The official website for Nursery Crimes
- Wikipedia page for Jasper Fforde
- MostlyFiction.com review of Lost in a Good Book
- MostlyFiction.com review of Well of Lost Plots
- MostlyFiction.com review of Something Rotten
- MostlyFiction.com review of First Among Sequels
- ReviewOfBooks review of The Big Over Easy
- MostlyFiction.com review of Shades of Grey
- MostlyFiction.com review of One of Our Thursdays is Missing
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About the Author:
Jasper Fforde worked in the film industry working on such major feature films as Quills, Goldeneye, Entrapment and the Mask of Zorro for twenty years. He left the film industry to pursue another lifelong dream: to be a novelist. He lives and writes in Wales.