Paperback 448 pages (June 19, 2006)
Publisher: Hodder Paperback
Category(ies): Comic fantasy/Crime
It's a tough place, Reading. DI Sprat, Jack Sprat, and his new DS Mary (yes, that's Mary Mary), have a mystery to solve. How did Humpty Dumpty come to be lying shattered (and dead) at the foot of that wall?
If you've read Fforde's previous novels, then you'll know that he has made a niche with comic meta-fiction. Happily, he has moved on from his previous main character Thursday Next, who was in danger of getting a little tired. This new setup involves a collision between good old police procedural, and a situation wherein nursery rhyme characters (including the animals) congregate in the Reading area. Hence, the Reading Constabulary needs the NCD, or Nursery Crimes Division. But next to the high flyers of the Guild of Detectives (membership by invitation only, faithful sidekick to chronicle your adventures and write them up for the magazines a must), the NCD is a poor relation, and shortly to be closed down.
But nobody counted on Sprat's determination.
In the end, the body count rises, the true cause of Humpty's death is revealed (and is, in retrospect, obvious), the beanstalk in Jack's mother's garden doesn't need planning permission, and the crimes are all solved.
(One little point that is mentioned is that the characters from nursery rhymes never actually realise how unlikely they are. For some reason, Jack Sprat and Mary Mary don't pick up on this ...)
All great fun.