Finished "The Big Over Easy" yesterday and ploughing "The Fourth Bear". Jasper Fforde's a genius. Just to give you a bit of a taste.
“It was the small traces of pastry around the gunshot wound on Colonel Peabody’s corpse that turned the case for me,” began the great detective, his sonorous tones filling the air like music, “minute quantities of shortcrust whose butter/flour ratio I found to be identical to that of a medium-size Bowyer’s pork pie. The assailant had fired his weapon through the tasty snack to muffle the sound of the shot. The report heard later was a firecracker set off by a time fuse, thus giving an alibi to the assailant, who I can reveal to you now was…”
The whole room leaned forward in expectation. Chymes, his only apparent vanity a certain showmanship, paused for dramatic effect before announcing the killer.
“…Miss Celia Mangersen, the victim’s niece and, unbeknownst to us all, the sole beneficiary of the missing will, which I found hidden — as expected — within a hollowed-out statuette of Sir Walter Scott. Yes, Mr. Hatchett, you have a question?”
Josh Hatchett of The Toad newspaper had raised his hand in the front row.
“What was the significance of the traces of custard found on the Colonel’s sock suspender?”
Chymes raised a finger in the air.
“An excellent question, Mr. Hatchett, and one that pushed my deducting powers to the limit. Bear with me if you will while we go through the final moments of Colonel Peabody’s life. Mortally wounded and with only seconds to live, he had somehow to leave a clue to his assailant’s identity. A note? Of course not — the killer would find and destroy it. Guessing correctly that a murder of this magnitude would be placed in my hands, he decided to leave behind a clue that only I could solve. Knowing the Colonel’s penchant for anagrams, it was but a swift move to deduct his reasoning. The sock suspender was made in France. ‘Custard’ in French is crème anglaise — and an anagram of this is ‘Celia Mangerse’ — which not only correctly identified the killer but also told me the Colonel died before he was able to finish the anagram.”
Svlad Cjelli would be proud no end. As I noted elsewhere, a Nursery Crime book reads like a Dirk Gently adventure written by Sir Terry himself with only a least bit of help from Neil Gaiman. The fact that Fforde doesn't grow the NCD series beyond just a few novels is rather to his advantage — there is only so much you can do with stuffing the classical European fairy tale characters into the modern world. Pratchett, in his turn, can (yes, I still use present tense here) grow Discworld indefinitely, because he fully owns the turf.
Can't wait to read Fforde's other titles, esp. the "Shades of Grey".