I have recently discovered (thank you, Miriam, for the heads-up!) one of the most delightful, most clever writers I have ever read. Jasper Fforde's books are not only well-written, but have more jokes per page than almost any other book I've read. And not just any jokes: puns, similies, characters contacting one another through the footnotes, and many jokes that depend on having read classics of English literature. For instance: in his alternative world of 1985 London, you don't get Mormons coming to your door--you get Baconians, who try to persuade you that Sir Francis Bacon, not Shakepeare, wrote the plays.
Aside from his Thursday Next stories, he has a series of Nursey Crimes, with investigators Jack Spratt and Mary Mary. In the first book in the series, The Big Over Easy, the team puzzles out who killed beloved social presence, womanizer, and philanthropist Humpty Dumpty? This is a seminal case for Inspector Spratt, since his last case, in which he tried to convict the Three Little Pigs of murder, fell through because of the all-pig jury.
These books read a little like the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by the much-missed Douglas Adams; however, there are two key differences.
1. Adams' jokes cna be understood by virtually anyone reading the book, no external sources are necessary. If you are reading Fforde's The Eyre Affair, you'd better have read Jane Eyre, Shakespeare, and Poe's The Raven. A good grasp of grammar and punctuation is also helpful.
2. The Hitchhiker's Guide books are extremely funny, but also highly cynical. Fforde's work is full of a delight in words, great books, and life in general. His lead characters are highly moral people, though never preachy or dull. While he pokes some fun at the great literature of the Western world, he obviously loves the books, and the jokes are the sort that bibliophiles tell.