Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The Big Over Easy - Jasper Fforde

Jasper Fforde is mad. Stark staring, barking, insane in the membrane, crazy in the coconut, sherbet in the synapses, cracks in the cortex, crosstalk in the circuitry, mad. It's the only explanation I can find for the mind that conceived the world where a murdered egg named Humperdinck (Humpty) van Dumpty emerges as a slightly shady, womanizing day trader; Jack Sprat is a detective inspector in the Nursery Crimes division of Reading Police - and yes his first wife did die from complications of her extremely high cholesterol; his prosecution of three little pigs for the murder of Mr Wolff was not successful; and his success will be measured in column inches in Amazing Crime Stories or Sleuth Illustrated. (Or rather not measured, because he doesn’t really rate, which is a problem for DS Mary Mary, his ambitious, but quite contrary new assistant.)

In case you are wondering, yes the book is a long, lame joke about the crossover of nursery rhyme characters into real life. And just like his earlier novels about literary detective Thursday Next, the weird fantasy world is conceived with elegance and grace. The literary and cultural jokes and puns on every page – from Marlowe to Monty Python – make it hilarious. The tight, mystery driven storyline pulls you through the story just like Raymond Chandler did in the old days. It’s a good book, with a great twist at the end, made richer by the bizarre and cluttered landscape of Fforde’s mind.

Who: Jasper Fforde
What: The Big Over Easy
When: August 2005
Where: London, Sardinia
Why: Read it for book club, would read it again for fun

Monday, August 08, 2005

August - Penguin
Betrayal in Naples
Neil Griffiths – Penguin, £7.99
Thank God we enjoyed this book, because there is nothing worse than having to justify your disappointment to the author.
First, the book: a great adventure. An Englishman on holiday, attracted by Naples’ seedy reputation, meets an ex-girlfriend in the street. She offers to show him around town, but first, dinner with her much older husband, president of the court of murder in Naples, currently presiding over a high-profile Camorra murder trial. And so it begins…
Naples, the star of the story, is luscious, the food is too, and you will want to visit until page 331, when you will re-book somewhere less dangerous. Jim Wolf, the Englishman on holiday, is a superbly written everyman, a perfect foil for the supremely complicated – or maybe just silly - ex-girlfriend, Louisa.
Now, Neil Griffiths. He’s a member of The Hospital, so he popped in for a Q and A, which was fascinating – perhaps mostly because it showed up how much extra the reader brings to a story. In a deliberately Neapolitan way, Neil left parts of the story open to interpretation, we interpreted our hearts out – everybody having different opinion, and the book being richer as a result of our joining the dots ourselves. Definitely read it, and read the French version too, if you can, because it ends differently.

Who: Neil Griffiths
What: Betrayal in Naples
When: August 2005
Where: London, Sardinia
Why: The Hospital book club