“Do they know they’re nursery characters?”
“I think sometimes they suspect, but for the most part they have no idea at all.”
–exchange between DS Mary Mary and DI Jack Spratt
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THE BIG OVER EASY
(NURSERY CRIME SERIES #1)
I took a little time off from reading horror and thriller novels to read a few humorous mysteries. The Spellman Files made me laugh out loud with ruckus good humor. Today’s book, The Big Over Easy, made me smile and chuckle a lot with its intelligent, low-key humor. I enjoyed both stories a lot.
Jasper Fforde has the ability to take unbelievable situations and fill them with humor and populate them with unusual, yet likable characters that you grow to care about. Under his spell craft, you become invested in these odd people as if they were your own friends.
In the world of the Nursery Crimes series, police departments thrive and wither on the basis of the popular crime magazine publications of their successful detective cases. In Reading England, Chief Detective Inspector Friedland Chymes is something of a rock star with a tremendous number of solved cases turned into published stories while Detective Inspector Jack Spratt is not.
In the opening chapter, Superintendent Briggs explained it this way:
“Modern policing isn’t just about catching criminals, Mary. It’s about good copy and ensuring that cases can be made into top-notch documentaries on the telly. Public approval is the all-important currency these days, and police budgets ebb and flow on the back of circulation and viewing figures.”
When Detective Sergeant Mary Mary interviews for a job at Reading, she expected to be assigned to her hero, CDI Chymes. She got DI Spratt instead. Despite her disappointment, she makes the best of it — seeing it as a stepping stone to better detectives — and throws herself into the bizarre world of the Nursery Crimes Division.
No sooner is Mary Mary introduced to NCD than they catch the case of Humpty Stuyvesant Van Dumpty III — millionaire, philanthropist, minor nobility, ladies’ man, sometimes scoundrel and all around good egg — who was found shattered to death in front of a wall.
Was it an accident? Suicide? Or murder?
Jack Spratt and Mary Mary are on the case and before it ends, the Reading Police Department will be turned on their heads . . . maybe literally.
Jack and Mary Mary only return for one more case . . . so far. The Fourth Bear by Jasper Fforde is a good follow-up to this one. You might also want to check out Fforde’s long running Thursday Next series starting with The Eyre Affair. If you find yourself in the mood for more British humor with a fantastic edge, try Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.
The Series in Order: