reviews: The Big Over Easy and The Case of the Missing Servant

21 06 2009

There’s several signs that summer is just about here.  The weather isn’t really one of them as it has still been rainy and a bit cool.  No, for me the true signs that summer is here is (multiple) weekly trips to the theatre and a craving for whodunnits.  Even with finishing up my marking, I’ve managed to finish two mysteries this week.

The first was Jasper Fforde’s The Big Over Easy.  I’ve read the first two books in Fforde’s Thursday Next series.  I struggled quite a bit with the first one (starting it three times before I finally got through the first few chapters), but I did enjoy the second a bit more.  The Artsy Mama had read The Big Over Easy and recommended it to me, and despite my sketchy history with Fforde’s work, I decided to try it.

The Big Over Easy begins with Detective Sergeant Mary Mary joining the Nursery Crimes Division run by DI Jack Spratt.  Jack’s been struggling to keep the division going and the loss of his murder case against the three pigs hasn’t helped matters.  Jack and Mary spend most of the book investigating the murder of Humpty Dumpty, while also trying to keep DCI Chymes from stealing the case from them.

There are humourous moments in the book and Fforde plays with many nursery rhyme conventions (including having Jack known as a giant killer and the inclusion of some magic beans).  I did struggle a bit with it, and I think that I have difficultly suspending my disbelief with the worlds Fforde creates, always wondering why he changes certain things, but not others.

The next mystery I picked up was the first in Tarquin Hall’s new series of detective novels featuring Vish Puri, India’s most skilled private investigator.  The story follows the owner of The Most Private Investigators agency as he tries to track down a missing maid servant and also runs a side investigation for a Brigadier who thinks his granddaughter’s financee has something to hide – not to mention having to deal with an attempt on his life.

I really enjoyed Hall’s novel.  It had good pacing throughout and the three key mysteries kept me interested.  There’s something about Poirot in Vish Puri in Hall’s physical description of him, and his mannerism, and his panache when dealing with the outcome of his cases.  There are differences though, particularly in that there is some focus on Puri’s personal life (family and friends) and also the range of employees that assist him in solving the cases.  Hall also seems very focused on capturing modern India and the struggles between progress and materialism and traditional values – the loss of which Puri laments in a few places throughout the novel.

This is definitely a series that I will keeping an eye out for.

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