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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Big Over Easy

Jasper Fforde

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To purchase The Big Over Easy

Title: The Big Over Easy
Author: Jasper Fforde
Genre: Novel
Written: 2005
Length: 383 pages
Availability: The Big Over Easy - US
The Big Over Easy - UK
The Big Over Easy - Canada
  • A Nursery Crime
  • Apparently written in 1993/4, The Big Over Easy was only published in 2005

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Our Assessment:

B+ : good fun, winningly done

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Independent A 17/8/2005 Christina Hardyment
The LA Times . 1/1/2006 Paula L. Woods
The NY Times . 22/7/2005 Janet Maslin
The Observer A 19/6/2005 Peter Guttridge
The Scotsman . 16/7/2005 Tom Adair
The Times . 16/7/2005 Marcel Berlins
USA Today . 27/7/2005 Anita Sama

  Review Consensus:

  Very enjoyable

  From the Reviews:
  • "Fforde's books are more than an ingenious idea. They are written with buoyant zest and are tautly plotted. They have empathetic heroes and heroines who nearly make terrible mistakes and suitably dastardly villains who do. They also have more twists and turns than Christie, and are embellished with the rich detail of a Dickens or Pratchett. (...) A real summertime treat." - Christina Hardyment, The Independent

  • "The Big Over Easy is so full of nursery rhyme references, puns and literary asides (not to mention the occasional ad and illustration) that it's hard not to laugh out loud while reading this fantastical sendup of a police procedural. But like the best novels of Douglas Adams or Terry Pratchett, Fforde goes beyond his genre" - Paula L. Woods, The Los Angeles Times

  • "(T)he treat in reading him lies in realizing that there's nothing he won't try. (...) (T)he funniest parts of The Big Over Easy are its sendups of mystery fiction protocol." - Janet Maslin, The New York Times

  • "I love it. The Big Over Easy is great not just because it's very funny (albeit with some excruciating puns) but also because it works properly as a whodunit." - Peter Guttridge, The Observer

  • "Fforde offers a cascade of puns, plays on words, surrealism, satire and verbal virtuosity based on children’s rhymes and stories. Astonishingly, he stays funny for 400 pages (and this is only the first in the Nursery Crime Division trilogy). Even more amazingly, there’s a real plot there, a proper mystery with a surprise solution." - Marcel Berlins, The Times

  • "Clever wordplay abounds. (...) The mystery is incidental to the careening plot." - Anita Sama, USA Today

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       In The Big Over Easy Jasper Fforde introduces another slightly skewed (and book-based) world. Detective Inspector John Reginald ("Jack") Spratt works in the Nursery Crime Division, and while some of the fundamentals remain the same, policing is a bit different in Fforde's universe. As Superintendent Briggs explains to Spratt's new assistant, Mary Mary:

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.
       Writing up a case for Amazing Crime Stories (or a similar magazine) is the goal, but Jack Spratt hasn't exactly been on a winning streak. An expensive court case against the three pigs just failed, and there's his growing reputation as a giant-killer, as he's killed (justifiably, he explains) more larger-than-average folk than most. And then there's his former colleague and professional nemesis, Friedland Chymes, who has gone on to greater glory.
       The Nursery Division is a small outfit, and Mary is not exactly thrilled to be assigned here, but tries to see it as a potential stepping-stone to working with Chymes -- but soon enough she's won over by Jack (and learns that Chymes isn't quite the grand investigator she'd imagined). As is, it looks like the division will be shut down anyway, the Humpty Dumpty murder-case the last big one for them to deal with.
       Humpty Dumpty does, indeed, fall off a wall. Accidental death ? suicide ? it's not immediately clear. In fact, quite a few people might have had reason to want him dead, and there are soon quite a few plausible murder-scenarios and suspects; admirably, Fforde has fashioned a real mystery here, and continues to surprise as the investigation proceeds, all the way to an ending the reader is unlikely to have seen coming.
       The world of The Big Over Easy is filled with a mix of very real (Jack's car) and fantasy (yes, there's a beanstalk -- and even some aliens, who manage to fit (more or less) right in), with only a few touches that perhaps go too far (Prometheus' presence, for example). Fforde takes his world seriously enough and rarely tries too hard, the humour dead-pan and very creative. As in the Thursday Next novels, brief excerpts from newspaper reports and the like at the beginning of each chapter, relevant and not to what follows, provide beautifully bizarre glimpses of this world.
       There are a few lulls, and some of the ideas fall a bit flat, but overall The Big Over Easy is richly imagined and jolly good fun. Hard to resist.

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The Big Over Easy: Reviews: Jasper Fforde: Other books by Jasper Fforde under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       British author Jasper Fforde was born in 1961.

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© 2005-2024 the complete review

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