This book by Jasper Fforde was possibly the funniest and most clever I have ever read. One part was so funny I could hardly read I was laughing so hard. Imagine a production of Richard III a la the midnight show of Rocky Horror Picture Show with the audience participation.
Thursday Next is an agent in the Literary Detective Division of the Special Operations Network. She investigates events like characters missing out of classic works like Jane Eyre. An evil fiend, Acheron Hades, has stolen a contraption that allows him to enter original manuscripts and alter the stories in all subsequent editions of the story. Thursday's uncle, Mycroft, was the inventor of the Prose Portal.
"What? What did you say? Mad, did you say? Hmm? Eh? What? What?"
His fingers tightened on Mycroft's windpipe; the professor could feel himself start to sweat in the cold panic of suffocation. Acheron was waiting for an answer that Mycroft was unable to utter.
"What? What did you say?"
Acheron's pupils started to dilate as Mycroft felt a dark veil fall over his mind.
"Think it's fun being christened with a name like mine? Having to live up to what is expected of one? Born with an intellect so vast that all other humans are cretins by comparison?"
Mycroft managed to give out a choke and Acheron slackened his grip. Mycroft fell to the floor, gulping for breath. Acheron stood over him and wagged a reproachful finger.
"Don't ever call me mad, Mycroft. I'm not mad, I'm just . . . well, differently moraled, that's all."
Characters go forward and back in time and pop in and out of the stories in books. Characters from those stories may also pop back into the real world. Curiously, the description of time travel closely resembles the description in the book, The Anubis Gate, by Tim Powers where the analogy uses a frozen river.
". . . The barriers between reality and fiction are softer than we think; a bit like a frozen lake. Hundreds of people can walk across it, but then one evening a thin spot develops and someone falls through: the hole is frozen over by the following morning. . ."
I highly recommend this book for the adventure, the allusions to literature (which do not need to be read), and the humor. I have the next three books in the series and I am eagerly looking forward to reading them.
My rating for this book +++++