Saturday, 27 January 2001

Edmund Crispin: The Moving Toyshop (1946)

Edition: Penguin, 1958 (Buy from Amazon)
Review number: 733

Set almost entirely in the city of Oxford, The Moving Toyshop begins with the accidental discovery of a body in a toyshop by a distinguished poet. When he returns with the police (some time later, as he was attacked and knocked unconscious), the toyshop is not there at all, and the police are inclined to believe he imagined the whole thing because of the blow to the head. However, his friend Gervase Fen, professor of English and amateur sleuth, thinks differently, and the two of them uncover a bizarre mystery.

The Moving Toyshop is a classic of the crime genre, but it is also a funny self-mocking satire. The plot is very silly - much of it hinges around a bizarre will in which legatees have been chosen because they are like Edward Lear limericks (a young lady of Ryde, for example). The characters are often very aware that they are in a book (at one point choosing a direction because of the location of the offices of Gollancz who originally published the novel), as well as providing comedy in themselves. The Fen novels of Edmund Crispin are often enjoyably over the top, but The Moving Toyshop is more so than most of them. Funny and engrossing, it is one of my favourite detective novels.

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