Review: The Moving Toyshop

The Moving Toyshop by Edmund Crispin is the third book in a series around the sleuthing Oxford don Gervase Fen, set in England in the late 1930. It’s the first Fen mystery I’ve read but I don’t think it’s important to read this series in order, there’s no larger back story or development.

So, in this one, the poet Richard Cadogan is in a bit of a midlife-crisis and decides to go to Oxford for a bit of change of scenery and some adventure. And boy, does he get one. He arrives around midnight and comes across a toyshop, in which he promptly stumbles upon the body of a strangled woman, and is then knocked out. The police don’t believe Cadogan’s story, but who can blame them when the toyshop, body and all have disappeared. Cadogan turns to eccentric amateur detective Gervase Fen who takes everything in stride, even moving toyshops (for the toyshop turns up soon enough, albeit in a different location and sans body).

Are you intrigued yet? I don’t want to give too much away. But it gets even nuttier, in that charming and whimsical British way. Also, since the setting is Oxford, and its main characters are an English professor and a poet, everyone is always playing literary games (e.g. least readable book) or quoting (even truck drivers). And I really doubt that I got half of the literary references but I had fun guessing.

While reading, I couldn’t help wondering if The Moving Toyshop is what would have happened if P.G. Wodehouse had decided to write mysteries. That’s how good this book is. Also, this mystery has the best chase scene I’ve ever read (my very favorite chase scene is from the film The Pink Panther; cars, gorilla costumes and Clouseau!), let’s just say it involves a villain on a bicycle.  I really can’t recommend reading it in public, I’m sure the people next to me thought I was crying, I was shaking from the effort of not screaming with laughter 🙂 The mystery itself is a puzzle but at times I found it a bit difficult to track. Not that I really minded, there was so much fun going on, figuring out whodunit was only part of what kept me reading.

I really don’t have that much to say about this book, I had the greatest time reading it and now I’ll just have to complete my Crispin collection. I have one other Fen mystery, Holy Disorder, which sounds promising already. Hope it’s as barmy and fun as The Moving Toyshop which, obviously, I can’t recommend enough!

The title by the way comes from Pope’s The Rape of the Lock:

With varying vanities, from every part,
They shift the moving toyshop of their heart


Have you reviewed this book? Let me know and I’ll add a link!

25 thoughts on “Review: The Moving Toyshop

  1. I enjoyed this one too. It was lovely to see how life was in 1930s Oxford – I recognised so many of the places. It is amazing to think how much life has changed since then. I really should read more of his books. 🙂

  2. Oxford don and poet solve a mystery together – Wow! I am adding it to my ‘TBR’ list now! And during my next trip to the bookstore, this is what I am going to look for 🙂

    Wodehouse writing a murder mystery – wish he had done that. It would have been real fun and a rip-roaring one 🙂

    1. I know, it sounds so perfect. I really do think you’ll enjoy this one a lot! Sohould I feel guilty for giving you an excuse to go to the bookstore? Or is the ban off? 🙂

      “Wodehouse writing a murder mystery – wish he had done that. It would have been real fun and a rip-roaring one :)”
      – Couldn’t agree more with you! 🙂

      1. Ha, ha, ha! There is a whole pile of books on my bookshelf under the section ‘Recommended by Bina’ 🙂 Need to read them soon.

        These days I am on a ‘mild’ book ban – I am buying selectively and not indiscriminately like I used to do. It is working till now.

  3. I love books in which things or people vanish and I am soooo curious about that one! The day after my presentation (hm… Thursday:-)) I am going to rush to the library and grab that one.

    1. Good luck with your presentation!! Really hope you’ll enjoy this one. If you can’t find a hopy, I can lend it to you next month 🙂

      1. Golly, am I getting behind things! Now that I have properly started reading “The moving toyshop”, you have already posted eight new entries here, I am amazed by your reading speed.
        Thanks for offering to lend the book to me, luckily the university library has one copy – it is from the 1970s and a really small format (papaer shortage due to the recession in England in the 1970s? 😉 ) and not as pretty as the edition you posted here.
        Still, it is a really good book – I love the absolutely hilarious game Cadogan and Fen play “Unreadabale Classics”.:-D We should play that one when we will see each other again!

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