by Jasper Fforde
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall...
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall...
Who would have guessed it was murder?
I've never been a fan of crime novels. But, I couldn't resist this peculiar offering from Jasper Fforde -- a contemporary crime novel chocked full of murder, infidelity, and industrial espionage centered on an egg with podiatry troubles.
In this latest series, we are introduced to DI Jack Spratt and his partner Mary Mary of the Nursery Crimes Division (NCD) at the Reading Police Department. (Ironically, the concept of the NCD was developed long before the adventures of Thursday Next were even a glimmer on the international best sellers list.) Still smarting from the acquittal of the Three Pigs for the murder of Mr. Wolff, Jack and Mary must solve the case before the almost certain disbanding of the NCD. Although slow to start, this quirky blend of modern day England inhabited by the nursery/fairytale characters of our youth comes into its own 150 pages from the end. As I raced towards the finish, I felt like I was in the midst of the TV series 'Dragnet' complete with theme tune and wrap up. Good fun!
Fforde's writing is not for the faint of heart. Often peppered with puns, my favorite of which was 'Winsum & Loosum Pharmaceuticals,' and phonetic spellings, there are enough mental gymnastics to keep even the most well read wondering how far the English language stretches. At the end of the day, I loved it although I wouldn't recommend reading at bedtime.
I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Fforde at the International Book Festival. A brilliant author, although slightly eccentric, he treated us to a reading from his latest publication 'The Fourth Bear' before explaining his goal for the NCD -- an exploration of our collective, childhood memory. What a noble objective!
Even if you don't remember all your nursery rhymes or fairytale plots, Wikipedia will sort you out. I highly recommend 'The Big Over Easy' for your consideration.
Alan Titchmarsh’s Trowel and Error
Jon McGregor’s If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things