THE EYRE AFFAIR by Jasper Fforde
Set in an alternate history, this novel not only has a good mystery but is hilariously funny to anyone who loves literature or the genre that Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams have made so popular. Set in Great Britain around 1985, the Crimean War is still going on after 131 years, Wales has become The People's Republic of Wales and literature and art are the most popular fads of the day. Thursday Next is a detective in the Literary Ops department. She is assigned to recover the Martin Chuzzlewit manuscript which has been stolen by arch-villain Archeron Hades. Hades kidnaps Thursday's uncle who has invented a portal that allows people to enter books. After a minor character from Chuzzlewit is found murdered (and subsequently missing from every published book), the pressure heats up when Jane Eyre's manuscript is stolen next. This book not only has mystery and humor but a denied romance based around the angst of old war experiences. In other words, it has everything but somehow Fforde makes it all come together for a totally enjoyable experience.
My favorite parts were the ones that showed how thoroughly literature was part of the overall culture ... kids trading Henry Fielding bubble gum cards, a live performance of Richard III with audience participation a la the Rocky Horror Picture Show, the fact that everyone Thursday meets has their own theory about who wrote Shakespeare's plays and is conversant with all the details of the other theories as well. It didn't hurt that Jane Eyre is one of my all time favorite books and it was delightful watching the manuscript's original wrong ending get turned by the story into the ending we all know in this history.