Posted by: billpurdue | August 21, 2008

19 Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall…..

….Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. Did he jump, was he pushed or was it an accident? This is what Detective Inspector Jack Spratt, head of the impoverished Nursery Crime Division at the Reading branch of the Oxfordshire and Berkshire Constabulary needs to find out with the help of his new assistant Mary Mary (who, as far as I can tell, is not especially contrary). Spratt’s Division is still smarting from the failure to convict the Three Little Pigs of murdering Mr Wolff. On top of all that the main raison d’etre of police detectives, it seems, is to be able to write up the story of one’s successful cases for the popular magazine “Amazing Crime Stories” or possibly “Sleuth Illustrated”. One detective who is a dab hand at solving cases and being published is Friedland Chymes. He  becomes very interested in the Dumpty case and tries to get Spratt taken off the case, so he can have all the glory. On top of all that, the Jellyman is coming to town to bless the Sacred Gonga (whatever that is) and there’s a beanstalk growing in Jack’s mother’s back garden. Oh, and the narcoleptic Wee Willie Winkie is in there somewhere. So who, if anyone, killed Humpty Dumpty; will Jack’s ageing Austin Allegro survive a police car chase and will Spratt’s superiors succeed in closing down the Nursery Crime Division for good? To find out, read The Big Easy by Jasper Fforde [ Hodder £7.99 9780340897102 ]


I must admit I wasn’t sure I was going to like this at first, having tried to read a Jasper Fforde novel some years ago and given up fairly quickly. I needn’t have worried. I think it was the unique combination of a good detective story and a host of nursery rhyme characters that got me hooked. There’s even a reference to Monty Python in there somewhere. Highly recommended – and of course I’m interested in reading more from Mr Fforde. The website is quite entertaining too.


On a more serious note


In complete contrast, and following straight on from reading Jasper Fforde, I decided to read a Doris Lessing novel: The Story of General Dann and Mara’s Daughter, Griot and the Snow Dog [ Harper Perennial  £7.99 9780007152827 ]  Perhaps this wasn’t a good idea. The story is set in a world which has been completely transformed by climate change: most of the land is an uninhabitable swamp; the great cities of the past are now submerged and the ice cliffs are melting at a terrific rate. Wars are constantly being fought and the stream of refugees in various directions never stops (sounds familiar). The whole book seems suffused with a sort of melancholic atmosphere. Though I’m very aware of the consequences of climate change, I felt that this was making me feel a trifle depressed – and also I soon realised  that I should have read the book that came before this:  Mara and Dann [Flamingo £7.99 9780006550839 ] .Don’t get me wrong – both these books are superb in their own way  – Doris Lessing has won the Nobel Prize for Literature after all – and are well  worth reading, but perhaps there is a time and a place to read certain types of books.


Bee sense


I’ve just been watching Jimmy Doherty on the telly in Nepal collecting honey from giant bees. At the end of the programme he talks about the value of bees to the production of our food and it reminded me about a book I saw a few weeks ago: A World without Bees by Alison Benjamin and Brian McCallum [ Guardian Books £9.99 9780852650929] I think that’s worth further investigation – I’ll report back later.




I notice that Nottinghamshire Libraries have remodelled their NeLib pages – that’s the section of their website which enables you to search the catalogue, renew your books on loan and so on. I clicked on the link in my list of favourites and got a blank page until I found out that things had changed. For the new Notts NeLib, click here. If you use Internet Explorer, for some reason, your tab (near the top pf your screen) will show just the word “Rooms”, so take care when adding it to your favourites.



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