The Big Over Easy

The Big Over Easy

by Jasper Fforde

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Jasper Fforde does it again with a dazzling new series starring Inspector Jack Spratt, head of the Nursery Crime Division.

Jasper Fforde’s bestselling Thursday Next series has delighted readers of every genre with its literary derring-do and brilliant flights of fancy. In The Big Over Easy, Fforde takes a break from classic literature and tumbles into the seedy underbelly of nursery crime. Meet Inspector Jack Spratt, family man and head of the Nursery Crime Division. He’s investigating the murder of ovoid D-class nursery celebrity Humpty Dumpty, found shattered to death beneath a wall in a shabby area of town. Yes, the big egg is down, and all those brittle pieces sitting in the morgue point to foul play.

(I originally shared this review on June 16, 2015…so three years ago! I have been struggling to stick with a book this summer and The Big Over Easy felt like a perfect reread. I still stand by what I originally said about the book and I’m loving it even more the second time around! Enjoy!)

Jack Spratt is in charge of the Nursery Crimes Division of Reading, a division on the verge of losing its budget thanks to his recent inability to convict the Three Little Pigs of murdering the Big Bad Wolf. Then the smashed remains of Humpty Dumpty are found next to a wall and Jack knows it wasn’t suicide. Now Jack must find the murderer, save his misfit division, and keep sleuthing celebrity, DCI Friedland Chimes, off the case.

I absolutely loved The Big Over Easy. Thank you for the recommendation Polly! Each page is packed with nursery rhyme references but it never feels overwhelming as the passages are so matter-or-fact. It leaves you with this nagging feeling that these events actually happened. Fforde’s dry, sarcastic humor kept my snickering and speeding through the novel. The Jack and the Beanstalk references killed me every time!

My only complaint is the climax chapters were too fast paced for me in comparison to the rest of the story. That’s it for me but I did take some time to read the few negative reviews of The Big Over Easy. My response to them is: do NOT read this book if you don’t like murder mysteries. It’s a murder mystery that mocks the elaborate and showy nature of modern mystery development. How can you expect to like that when you don’t enjoy mystery novels?! Other reviewers complain that Fforde is trying too hard to be clever and only includes all the nursery rhyme information to make his readers feel smart when they get the references. You’ve got to be kidding me. Yes, the clever jokes and writing style may be too much for some but I highly doubt Fforde is more concerned with boosting the ego of his readers over the need to provide a good complex story. My only advice for such thinkers is that you should get over yourself and learn to enjoy the mechanics and discipline required to write a well balanced story.

Fforde’s jaw dropping ability to expertly meld so much research and detail in to one murder mystery has me wanting to be a better writer. I recommend The Big Over Easy to writers, as well as readers, as a prime example of a writing style that remains showing despite being so informational.

Have you discovered the Nursery Crimes Division? It’s time you should!

Lindsay

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Murder on Santa Claus Lane

Murder on Santa Claus Lane

by William G Bogart

Murder on Santa Claus Lane

G-Men Detective, January 1943
MURDER ON SANTA CLAUS LANE
by William G. Bogart

With a Blackout in Hollywood, Rookie Patrol Car Cop Johnny Regan Does Some X-Ray Work to See Through Crime!

Murder on Santa Claus Lane combines two of my typical December reading trends: Christmas mystery and crime noir/pulp fiction.  My love for Nero Wolfe has me slowly branching out to similar noir pieces and I found this short story through Barnes and Noble.  Murder on Santa Claus Lane has been publish in e-book format by Peril Press, an independent publisher based in Portland, and was initially printed in the January 1943 issue of the G-Men Detective Magazine.  This publication featured ‘G-Men’ crime stories and was produced from 1935 to 1953.  William G Bogart was a prolific crime novelist who worked on the Doc Savage novels. (Note: Limited research was involved so please feel free to correct me if I am wrong!)

Johnny Regan is a rookie patrol cop in Hollywood.  He is stuck working the streets over the Christmas holidays and is disappointed that air raids have the city blacked out.  He isn’t even able to enjoy the Christmas lights on patrol.  But, all thoughts of holiday cheer are forgotten when he and his partner, Big Ben Slattery, get tangled up in a holiday robbery.

Murder on Santa Claus Lane is a fun short story full of that classic noir flavor.  Regan is a young buck who is headstrong, cocky, and quite fond of shapely blondes.  Big Ben is his always-cheerful mentor.  Together, they scour the less wealthy streets of Hollywood for crime.  The passages just dripped with the raw imagery of the genre.  My imagination put me right there in the middle of the grainy black and white scene as the copper raced to help his cornered partner…  I love this genre!

Surprisingly, the story, and characters, are just a tad too flat for me.  Bogart was missing some essential descriptive language and I was left feeling that this was a short story he pinned for some extra dough and exposure.  I just couldn’t really connect with any of the characters and that is essential for short stories.  You want your readers invested by the end of the first paragraph.  There were a few continuity errors that forced me to re-read parts.  Just small things that left me thinking, “Where in the world did that flashlight come from?”  The story composition was just rough.

Murder on Santa Claus Lane is worth checking out if you are a fan of the genre.  I suggest something a tad bit more polished for those starting out in crime noir.  Hardboiled crime/crime noir is a rugged pulp fiction style that is definitely an acquired taste.  I love it!  The grittiness, clichés, and language push me to read more of the genre.  Any hardboiled crime/crime noir fans out there?  What is your favorite book?

Lindsay

Cordially Invited to Meet Death

 

Cordially Invited to Meet Death

by Rex Stout

Cordially Invited to Meet Death: A Nero Wolfe Novella

My synopsis:  Bess Huddleston, an eccentric party planner for New York’s elite, approaches Wolfe with a request; to find the culprit behind letters damaging her image.  Wolfe takes on the case at the promise of a hefty fee, but Huddleston dies of tetanus just days later.  Archie Goodwin is sure it is foul play and pushes Wolfe to search for Huddleston’s murderer.

Cordially Invited to Meet Death is included in The Black Orchids collection.  Black Orchids are a small detail of the story and play an important role for Archie during his investigation.  His statement at the end of the novel is perfect.  It ties everything together but still leaves readers marveling at the mystery that is Nero Wolfe.

I enjoy Cordially Invited to Meet Death because of how the murder is committed.  The scientific nature is just fascinating and is different, as the novella was written long before the mass production of crime investigation shows.  It also perfectly showcases the tumultuous relationship shared by Wolfe and Inspector Cramer.  The two worked together in the last novella I reviewed but this time they are left butting heads.  Cramer insists on throwing his badge and authority at Wolfe who promptly investigates the murder out of spit!  We also get to see the Archie’s frustrations at working with a genius who rarely shares his full thought process.

This is not my favorite novella because of the cast of characters.  Bess Huddleston just irks me, especially with her menagerie of dangerous pets.  I shared Archie’s opinion of Ms. Huddleston’s home.  I personally feel that wild animals should not be pets and that most people who have them as pets don’t even have the ability to train a dog, much less a bear or chimp.  It may seem harsh but I am sure Wolfe would agree with me.  I also wanted to know specific details during the reveal of the murderer, but I can’t go in to that without ruining the story.

Has anyone else read Cordially Invited to Meet Death?  Have I convinced you to check out Nero Wolfe yet? 😉

Lindsay

The Black Orchids

The Black Orchids

by Rex Stout

Black Orchids (Nero Wolfe, #9)

It is always a treat to read a Nero Wolfe mystery. The man has entered our folklore”.–The New York Times Book Review. Incomparable sleuth Nero Wolfe and his perennially hardy sidekick, Archie Goodwin, find themselves trying to weed out a garden-variety killer at the annual flower show.

This is my FAVORITE Nero Wolfe story!  I am sitting here grinning from ear to ear because I am so excited to share it with you!  I would be dancing but I’m waiting until I finally get home to do so.

Nero Wolfe is an amateur horticulturist who strictly specializes in orchids.  The entire top floor of his brownstone has been converted to a green house and he spends precisely four hours a day attending to his plants.  The Black Orchids starts with Archie stuck at a Flower Show examining the main exhibit, three rare black orchids, for his boss.  Wolfe eventually ventures out of the brownstone to see the blooms for himself; on the same afternoon a young gardener is found dead in a display.  Wolfe eagerly takes on the case in hopes of adding some new orchids to his ever growing collection.

I love The Black Orchids because it perfectly showcases the dynamic between Wolfe and Archie.  Readers experience Archie’s snarky attitude and his joy at badgering his boss through his narration.  Wolfe’s quirks, including his brash selfishness, are spread out in detail for the readers.  But one of the best parts is getting to experience one of Wolfe’s theatrical who-dunnit’ reveals.

Rex Stout is just gifted.  His prose pulls you through the narrative making you eagerly await the answers.  He delves in to the personalities of most of his characters and I enjoy what he shares of Inspector Cramer and Lewis Hewett.  But be warned; the female characters can read flat.  Wolfe resists interacting with women on the off chance they get hysterical and Archie is more focused on the physical attributes.  But don’t worry; they are not sexist pigs.  Both men enjoy conversing with highly intelligent and independent women so they show up on a regular basis through the series.  Wolfe even verbally spars with two female witnesses in The Black Orchids.

Read it!  I always recommend Rex Stout for those interested in crime noir.  The Nero Wolfe books are not as gritty as most hardboiled crime pieces but I personally enjoy the humorous aspects.  Have you read any Rex Stout?  Which story is your favorite?

Lindsay

Murder on Santa Claus Lane

Murder on Santa Claus Lane

By William G Bogart

Murder on Santa Claus Lane

G-Men Detective, January 1943
MURDER ON SANTA CLAUS LANE
by William G. Bogart

With a Blackout in Hollywood, Rookie Patrol Car Cop Johnny Regan Does Some X-Ray Work to See Through Crime!

Murder on Santa Claus Lane combines two of my typical December reading trends: Christmas mystery and crime noir/pulp fiction.  My love for Nero Wolfe has me slowly branching out to similar noir pieces and I found this short story through Barnes and Noble.  Murder on Santa Claus Lane has been publish in e-book format by Peril Press, an independent publisher based in Portland, and was initially printed in the January 1943 issue of the G-Men Detective Magazine.  This publication featured ‘G-Men’ crime stories and was produced from 1935 to 1953.  William G Bogart was a prolific crime novelist who worked on the Doc Savage novels. (Note: Limited research was involved so please feel free to correct me if I am wrong!)

Johnny Regan is a rookie patrol cop in Hollywood.  He is stuck working the streets over the Christmas holidays and is disappointed that air raids have the city blacked out.  He isn’t even able to enjoy the Christmas lights on patrol.  But, all thoughts of holiday cheer are forgotten when he and his partner, Big Ben Slattery, get tangled up in a holiday robbery.

Murder on Santa Claus Lane is a fun short story full of that classic noir flavor.  Regan is a young buck who is headstrong, cocky, and quite fond of shapely blondes.  Big Ben is his always-cheerful mentor.  Together, they scour the less wealthy streets of Hollywood for crime.  The passages just dripped with the raw imagery of the genre.  My imagination put me right there in the middle of the grainy black and white scene as the copper raced to help his cornered partner…  I love this genre!

Surprisingly, the story, and characters, are just a tad too flat for me.  Bogart was missing some essential descriptive language and I was left feeling that this was a short story he pinned for some extra dough and exposure.  I just couldn’t really connect with any of the characters and that is essential for short stories.  You want your readers invested by the end of the first paragraph.  There were a few continuity errors that forced me to re-read parts.  Just small things that left me thinking, “Where in the world did that flashlight come from?”  The story composition was just rough.

Murder on Santa Claus Lane is worth checking out if you are a fan of the genre.  I suggest something a tad bit more polished for those starting out in crime noir.  Hardboiled crime/crime noir is a rugged pulp fiction style that is definitely an acquired taste.  I love it!  The grittiness, clichés, and language push me to read more of the genre.  Any hardboiled crime/crime noir fans out there?  What is your favorite book?

Lindsay