Reading Guide Questions
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
About the Book
Humpty Dumpty's taken the big falldead off a ledge, with no eyewitnesses. Was
it suicide? Was it murder? In Reading, there's only one police unit that handles
this type of talethe Nursery Crime Division. It's up to Detective Inspector
Jack Spratt, along with his new partner, Sergeant Mary Mary, and their
investigative team, to crack the egg case.
In The Big Over Easy
, Jasper Fforde has created a new and bizarre
universe where fairy tales, nursery rhymes, and real life collide. Fresh from
the success of his bestselling Thursday Next series, Fforde has now sealed his
reputation as one of the brightest literary lights around. Written with a sharp
eye and a bounding imagination, The Big Over Easy
literature and crime drama to create something uniquesomething only Jasper
Fforde could have pulled off.
Jack, his latest hero, is an underdog trying to make good. Head of the
struggling Nursery Crime Division, Jack is a detective with a less than stellar
conviction rate and a reputation for accidentally killing giants. What's worse,
he's constantly in the shadow of celebrity detective, coworker, and chief rival
Friedland Chymes, whose every case lands on the front page of Amazing Crime
Stories, the pinnacle of police achievement. With a large family, a demanding
mother, and a car on the verge of a breakdown, Jack is a regular man beset by
everyday worriesbut ordinary turns to extraordinary as he begins work on the
Humpty Dumpty case. The famous egg loved the ladies, lived fast, and drank
hardand it seems he's finally paid the price. But who had a motive to kill Mr.
Dumpty, and how did he do it? As Jack and Mary try to answer these questions,
they're confronted by a rogues' gallery of nursery criminals: the murderous
Gingerbreadman, a mad scientist, three conniving little pigs, and many more.
With his job on the line, Jack must solve Humpty's murder before the famous
Jellyman comes to town, but the body count is climbing, with as many suspects as
victims. Will he succeed? Will Mary betray him for the chance to work with
Chymes? Will Jack ever be accepted into the Guild of Detectives? And what about
that mysterious beanstalk growing in his mother's yard?
Using his seemingly endless knowledge of literature of all stripes, not to
mention his grand sense of the absurd, Fforde gives the impression of having had
as much fun writing the book as his fans will reading it; his enthusiasm leaps
off the page. Because of this, The Big Over Easy, as the first installment in
the Nursery Crime series, is not only a wonderful read but also a terrific
introduction to what will no doubt be many more great books to come.
- Of all the nursery rhyme characters Fforde reinvents, which was your
- Fforde begins each chapter with a relevant excerpt from a book or
article. Did you enjoy this device? How does it relate to the importance the
story places on the media's reaction to crime?
- The Guild of Detectives aims to provide audience-friendly crime
storieseven at the expense of the facts. Are there any parallels between
this and today's TV and tabloid news culture? Which recent news stories
support your argument?
- Fforde plays with the idea of celebrity in various forms in The Big
Over Easy, from Friedland Chymes to Lola Vavoom. Can you identify a
particular message in Fforde's depiction of these characters?
- Who is the Jellyman? Whom would his real-life counterpart be?
- Lord Spongg explains that, in the foot ailment industry, the money is
made through the treatment, not the cure. What other business examples seem
to follow this formula? What do you think of this practice?
- "I've been underestimated before," says Jack at several key moments.
What other crime-solving characters are famous for being solitary,
unappreciated, or otherwise marginalized? In what other ways does Detective
Spratt fit the traditional hero model?
- How does Fforde rework the usual mystery plot clichés? What about the
conventions of fairy tales and nursery rhymes? Which does he use to his
advantage and which does he abandon altogether?
- Before Jack solves Humpty's murder, was there a moment where you
thought you knew who the killer was? Whom did you initially think the
culprit would be and why
- Which nursery rhyme or fairy tale would you like see Fforde tackle
next? How would you update it?
Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Penguin.
Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.