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!