Third course in a feast of hyperliterary alternate-reality thrillers (The Eyre Affair, 2002, etc.) may prove too rich for some stomachs.
Fforde’s story takes place in several parallel universes that manage, against all laws of logic and geometry, to intersect at many, many points. Our heroine, literary detective Thursday Next, is the nexus of this strangely wired cosmos. Thursday has just returned from the pages of Jane Eyre, in which she foiled archvillain Acheron Hades’ attempt to steal the ending. Now pregnant (by a dead veteran of the Crimean War) and badly in need of rest, she requests an assignment in the Character Exchange Program and is sent to fill in for Mary Jones, detective in a dreadful unpublished thriller. Like all unpublished books, Caversham Heights exists in a kind of limbo in the Well of Lost Plots, a warren of sub-basements in the Great Library where all books are born, but few see the light of day. Thursday works her way through Mary’s role in the hopeless plot, glad of a safe job for change, but she soon finds plenty of extratextual distractions that hint at trouble ahead. Within the ranks of Jurisfiction (a kind of FBI of the text world), a string of murders begins to claim the lives of various authorities connected with a new process of plot development. Thursday learns that her late husband is not dead at all but was in fact “eradicated” at the behest of rogue elements within Jurisfiction. Between teaching her “generic” houseboys Ibb and Obb how to cook, fending off hostile grammasites (literary parasites that infest a plot with gerunds), and facing Jurisfiction charges that she changed the ending of Jane Eyre, Thursday still has to find the time to solve the various crimes now springing up within and without the text. For instance, who stole the commas from Joyce’s Ulysses?
Like anchovies, Wagner, and Helmut Newton: will greatly appeal to people with unusual tastes—and befuddle everyone else.