"One of Our Thursdays is Missing: A Novel" by Jasper Fforde, Viking, 359 pages, $25.95
My mom used to have a saying when she couldn't describe something easily -- "If you like this kind of thing, this is the kind of thing you'd like."
That's pretty much how I feel about introducing Jasper Fforde's newest book, "One of Our Thursdays is Missing."
The speculative fiction series, which started with "The Eyre Affair" and progressed through "Lost in a Good Book," "The Well of Lost Plots," "Something Rotten" and "First Among Sequels," continues to provide an extraordinarily readable gateway into the wacky and unpredictable world of Tuesday Next, Special Ops literary detective, based in Swindon, England.
Normally, at this point, I would try to explain the series plot. Alas, previous attempts at this often have ended with friends and family members slowly backing away and remembering urgent appointments with their dentists.
In short, the spunky, sassy and intelligent Next is able to go in and out of the literary world in pursuit of problems, which often extend to her real world.
More specifically, her real world is BookWorld, an entity made up of literary genres and governed by the Jurisfiction council. In "Missing," Racy Novel wants to merge with Women's Fiction -- both of which occupy different spaces on the Fiction Island (where the Cliff of Notes is found). Jurisfiction's peace talks require Thursday Next, but she's missing. Only the written Tuesday Next, the one who appears in her books, is available.
That means the written Next has to find both a substitute for her in the books -- so readers don't miss her -- and find the real Tuesday before literary war erupts.
Luckily, she has the help of her robotic butler while making sure that the Men in Plaid don't find her, and she's able to squeeze plugs for the Toast Marketing Board into the book series. And did I mention Emperor Zhark?
If you're still with me, know that Fforde's series is a spot-on original. His books are full of wordplay, puns, literary and cultural jabs. He must have an exceptional reading and critical history to be able to put in all the references (most of which I usually get) that make reading his books so much fun.
But that's both good and bad. If you have a fair to middling knowledge of literary genres, oeuvres and authors, and like speculative fiction, the series is wonderful; if you don't, not so much.
It's the kind of thing I like, though, when I like that kind of thing.
Fforde is also the writer of the Nursery Crime series "The Big Over Easy" and "The Fourth Bear."