888 Challenge #10
DI Jack Spratt’s career is fast coming to a dead end; the acquittal of the three little pigs is just the latest in a string of Nursery Crime Division failures. His cases aren’t even being closed, much less getting into print. DS Mary Mary is even less happy than Jack; a department on the way out isn’t the transfer she had in mind. The chance to salvage both their careers arrives in the form of what might just be a murder case when Humpty Dumpty is found shattered at the foot of his wall. There’s no shortage of suspects - dozens of ex-girlfriends and their irate husbands, not to mention people who were burned in Humpty’s shady business transactions. The case is made more complicated by additional corpses and an assortment of plot devices banned by the Guild of Detectives. And Jack has other problems to deal with. He’s still getting a hard time over his reputation as a giant-killer, and he’s just traded his mother’s prized possession - a George Stubbs painting of a cow - for a handful of peculiar-looking beans....
And that’s only some of the oddities that exist in Jack’s world. At first it was a little overwhelming - I was left thinking, ”QuangTech? Jellyman? Sacred Gonga? What the -?” Then I decided the best way to read the book was to switch off the part of my brain dedicated to logical thought and assume the explanations would be forthcoming. And to an extent, they were. The world of Nursery Crime has even less of a footing in reality than that of Thursday Next (but readers of The Well of Lost Plots will see the connection. Jack’s world is the book Thursday stayed in; a fictional fictional version of Reading. And if you want to know how the two Generics turned out, here’s your chance). But to return to this book: It reads much better if you don’t think too much; and it does come to make its own twisted sort of sense. What happens is determined by the original tales (and legends, and urban legends); the how is often unexpected. Sure it’s bizarre, but somehow it works both as comedy and mystery.