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Day July 30, 2005

Book #42: Jasper Fforde, The Big Over Easy

Fforde’s newly released book, “The Big Over Easy: A Nursery Crime”, inhabits a world different than the Thursday Next novels, but carry over the author’s ability to draw a comic “alternate England” to great effect. The new series follows Detective Jack Spratt, investigator in the Nursery Crime Division, as he solves the murder of Humpty Dumpty in modern-day “alternate” Reading. Along the way, the mystery unfolds with consummate Fforde complexity, managing to pull in references to most classic nursery rhymes. As with the Thursday Next novels, The Big Over Easy isn’t really a children’s book, but is rather a fantasy mystery for adults who enjoy the British tradition of comedic whimsy. I’m a huge fan of the Thursday Next novels, and naturally I was somewhat disappointed to find that this (and next) year’s books from Fforde were going to be a new series, but Fforde carries off the new series well and I’m hooked.

Book #41: Michael Craig, The Professor, the Banker, and the Suicide King

Michael Craig’s book chronicles a series of high-stakes poker games played between Andy Beal, a Texas banker, and top poker pros between 2001 and 2004 in Las Vegas. Beal is far more than an amateur poker player, spending vast amounts of time and millions of dollars to experimentally determine exactly what the pro’s “edge” consists of. At the end of the day, Beal determines that their edge against a truly solid player is thin indeed, with the pros relying more on player selection to beat Beal than anything else, and Beal relying upon consistently high stakes to rattle the pros in return. The book was light reading, of course, but if you’ve watched the World Poker Tour on the Travel Channel or tournaments on ESPN, Craig’s book contains some fascinating stories about the development of the televised poker craze and interesting backstory on many of the pro players.