The Big Over Easy (Jasper Fforde)

Rating: [rate 4.5]

The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde (image courtesy of bodies never look like this.

It’s Easter in Reading — a bad time for eggs — and the shattered, tuxedo-clad corpse of a local businessman Humpty Stuyvesant Van Dumpty III has been found lying beneath a wall in a shabby part of town. Humpty was one of life’s good guys — so who would want him knocked off? And is it a coincidence that his ex-wife has just met with a sticky end down at the local biscuit factory?

A hardened cop on the mean streets of the Thomas Valley’s most dangerous precinct, DI Jack Spratt has seen it all, and something tells him this is going to be a tough case to crack… – blurb from the back of the book

We all know Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall and had a great fall…but do we ever wonder why he fell? Jasper Fforde explores this idea in his first Jack Spratt novel, The Big Over Easy. The novel starts with the introduction of Detective Sergeant (DS) Mary Mary, who is applying for a job in the Reading Police Department. She’s a good detective, though she always ends up having to do difficult choices for herself. She thought she would be working with Friedland Chymes, her number one idol but as with every new employee, she had to start out low — in the Nursery Crime Division (NCD) under DI Jack Spratt.

The NCD is considered the place for losers in the Reading Police Department. Besides being understaffed and under budget, the NCD is also in danger of being disbanded. Mary knew she doesn’t want to last there, and that she’d do anything to get to Friedland Chymes…until Humpty Dumpty dies.

But why did Humpty die? Did he just fall? Was it suicide? Or is he killed? Jack and Mary gets in the middle of the case and as the case gets more and more complicated, Jack is faced with the possibility of losing the case and his department to Chymes and Mary had to make some of the most difficult choices in her life.

Okay, I made it sound so serious, but the novel’s actually quite funny. It’s full of connections with other fairy tales and nursery rhymes (i.e. Jack exchanges a painting of a cow for some magic beans which grows into a giant beanstalk in his mother’s backyard, Jack also has this thing about killing giants = Jack and the Beanstalk :p). The story is engaging, but not that full of suspense, so you won’t really lose sleep over it.

The only thing that didn’t really appeal to me here is the number of times Jack “got” the criminal, but then turns out there was something more after. Somehow the ending dragged a bit longer than I think it should, but the ending itself is quite good. :)

I can’t wait to read the next Jack and Mary novel. :D Jasper Fforde, you are a genius!