Tell a former English major who loves mystery novels and has an interest in science fiction that there's a mystery series out there involving sci-fi and famous classic literature and see if she doesn't snap up a copy of the first book in the series as soon as is humanly possible. I certainly did. I laid my hands on a copy of The Eyre Affair, the first novel in Jasper Fforde's series about Literary Detective Thursday Next, less than 30 days after I first heard about it. It combines lots of my favorite genres into one, with the added bonus of being set in Britain (I'll confess to being a bit of an Anglophile). Of course, that does not necessarily make a successful novel, but Fforde has some talent with his pen as well, so the characters are interesting and the plot is compelling, making an altogether successful book.
The Thursday Next series deals with an alternate reality - it's our world, in 1980s Britain, but there are special bureaus in the national law enforcement arena that deal with all sorts of crimes that don't generally happen in our reality, such as crimes against literature and crimes connected to time travel and vampire exterminators. Thursday Next is a Literary Detective in London. Being a Literary Detective is not generally one of the more exciting special agent jobs. It mostly involves desk research and hunting down counterfeit copies of alleged "new" scripts discovered to be written by famous long-dead authors and stopping the counterfeiters. Thursday gets pulled into a much more exciting case, however, when a special bureau unknown to her recruits her to help them catch a criminal she knows from her past. Her life becomes inextricably tied up with a murderous sociopath who used to be her professor. He takes advantage of some new technology developed by her absent-minded professor-like uncle to begin kidnapping and threatening to kill characters from classic novels. She has to stop him before he kills Jane Eyre herself, forever changing the literary canon.
As far as mystery novels go, this is one of the more original and interesting I've ever read. It embraces and combines both the mystery and science fiction genres and turns their focus to classic literature with a writing style that is light-hearted and humorous. It's no classic literary masterpiece itself, but it is a really fun read with an interesting set of characters and an entirely unique plot. I'll definitely seek out the other books in the series. Highly recommended; five five of stars!