The BookWorld has undergone a transformation from Great Library format to Geographic format. Hanging on the inside of a globe, all forms of writing are organised into clusters of islands that are divided into genres. Related genres are located near to each other and trade text, plot devices, metaphors and so on. All is not well, however, with a genre war about to erupt. Jurisfiction agent Thursday Next is due to chair peace talks in a week’s time only she has vanished in suspicious circumstances. Worried about the consequences of the impending battle Jurisfiction turns to the written Thursday Next who is living in a small corner of speculative fiction, maintaining her four book series and trying to keep her readers and fellow characters happy. She is asked to investigate the mysterious break-up of a vanity book that was being transported across BookWorld, leaving a trail of narrative debris in its wake. Soon the Men in Plaid, agents of the Council of Genres, are trailing after her, her understudy is upstaging her, and her Designated Love Interest is revealed to have a murderous back story. Written Thursday has to live up to the reputation of her real world counterpart and save the day or risk being erased from the BookWorld.
One of Our Thursdays is Missing is a very clever book. In some senses too clever. As usual, Fforde’s playfulness with language and intertextuality is in full flight. However, the construction of the BookWorld, and Fforde’s explanations as to how it is organised and works, seemed, to me at least, to get somewhat in the way of the story. It is only in the few pages where Thursday is sent into the ‘real world’ – Outland – that the narrative flows in the same way as previous books. In those stories, the cleverness and inventiveness of Fforde’s imagination comes through loud and clear without it overly clogging the story. The plot then is smart and witty, but the storyline is more a witty observational piece rather than a compelling page turner. Despite these gripes, One of Thursdays is Missing is an enjoyable read. One has to admire the sheer cleverness and playfulness of Fforde’s writing, but sometimes less is more.