"One of Our Thursdays Is Missing" (Penguin Group), by Jasper Fforde: Before you crack the spine of this book, do yourself a favor and read the other five in the series. If you love fiction _ from romance novels to Literature with a capital L _ you'll be glad you did.
A little background to pique your interest: Thursday Next is a literary detective from Swindon, England. She can move back and forth between the RealWorld and the BookWorld, interacting with any character that's ever been written. In the five previous novels, she solved various in-book crimes like the kidnapping of Jane Eyre, and kept the Goliath Corp. from controlling the imaginary world like it does the real one.
"One of Our Thursdays Is Missing" centers on the disappearance of Thursday herself. Or one of her selves. You see, besides the flesh-and-blood Thursday, there's also a Thursday in the BookWorld who must always be ready to act out her story whenever a reader picks up one of the Thursday Next books and begins reading.
Confused yet? Don't be. Just jump in with a very open mind and let Jasper Fforde's imagination carry you away. The story centers on the written Thursday's efforts to find her missing real self to avert a devastating genre war. She gets around BookWorld's Fiction Island with the help of a windup butler named Sprockett (the BookWorld version of Starbucks is called Stubbs, naturally) and lots of trips in TransGenre Taxis ("hastily trained and mostly polite drivers!").
For Fforde fans, many of your favorite characters are here, including Thursday's pet dodo, Pickwick, and her friends at Jurisfiction (the literary world's police force) Emperor Zhark and Commander Bradshaw, even Jack Schitt, head of Goliath's internal security service.
Fforde is a keen satirist and lover of wordplay. Each page is peppered with literary allusions, pop culture references and inside jokes. Most readers won't get them all and that's OK. As Fforde writes about his title character's whereabouts: "Here in Fiction we have over a quarter of a billion titles. That's just one island in a BookWorld of two hundred and twenty-eight different and very distinct literary groupings ... Thursday could be anywhere from the Urdu translation of Wuthering Heights to the guarantee card on a 1965 Sunbeam Mixmaster."
Rest assured, if you join Fforde for his denouement down the Metaphoric River, you'll find Thursday and be left wondering what could possibly be next in this entertaining and inventive series.