Bookmarks Issue: 

A Nursery Crime

A-BigOverEasyInvestigator Jack Spratt finds it difficult to gain recognition working in the lowly Nursery Crimes Division of Reading, England. That is, until he gets the high-profile case of minor baronet (and ex-convict) Humpty Dumpty, who took a fatal fall off a wall and shattered into 126 pieces. Was it suicide—or murder? With detective Mary Mary at his side, Spratt leaps into the hard-boiled case of the fall guy, in a police procedural that features giants, aliens, and three nasty little pigs.
Viking. 400 pages. $24.95. ISBN: 0670034231

Independent [London] 4 of 5 Stars
"Since most of us can still chant the nursery rhymes which are the seminal texts in this witty thriller, and have more than a nodding acquaintance with Greek myths and crime fiction, it is easy to enjoy Fforde’s references to Miss Maple, Inspector Dogleash and the raunchy night-lives of the gods. . . . [Fforde’s books] also have more twists and turns than Christie, and are embellished with the rich detail of a Dickens or Pratchett." Christina Hardyment

New York Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Not many tricks of the mystery-writing trade escape Mr. Fforde’s comedic attention. . . . Anyone who has ever been read a nursery rhyme—and who can tolerate heavy doses of Monty Pythonesque silliness—can appreciate Mr. Fforde’s outlandish joking." Janet Maslin

USA Today 3.5 of 5 Stars
"It’s as if the Marx brothers were let loose in the children’s section of a strange bookstore—a duck soup of loony lit. . . . [Fforde’s] self-styled ‘daft novels’ are not for the lazy brained but for the actively engaged reader, one who knows the secret pleasures of a word puzzle and can draw on a lifetime of literature." Anita Sama

Washington Post 3 of 5 Stars
"This kind of humor isn’t for everyone, nor is it meant to be. . . . It may take a while to get in step with him, but it’s worth the trouble." Carolyn See

Detroit Free Press 2 of 5 Stars
"[I]t is often as confusing as amusing and readers may start wondering if Fforde has a plan or if he’s just throwing things against the wall to see what sticks." Ron Bernas

Rocky Mountain News 2 of 5 Stars
"While readers must give Fforde credit for wit, energy and exuberance, sometimes the novel reads like one long, extended pun. The first quarter or so of the book sustains the humor, but after that it gets old fast." Eric J. Blommel

Critical Summary

Hearing characters debate the implications of "illegal straw-into-gold dens" is attractive to a certain type of reader. Puns and silliness can certainly provide laugh-out-loud fun, especially when cleverly handled. But critics found this new series debut from literary jokester Jasper Fforde (The Eyre Affair, 4 of 5 Stars Summer 2002, is from Fforde’s first series, Thursday Next) a tad shallow and wearisome. Fforde doesn’t skewer nursery rhymes exclusively; he also spoofs mystery fiction protocol, including anagrams, secret twins, and butlers who did it. This is actually his most ingenious turn in an otherwise overlong send-up.