Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Review of The Moving Toyshop by Edmund Crispin (1946, Penguin)

Richard Cadogan is a struggling poet of some renown.  Having extricated an advance out of his publisher he heads to Oxford for a week’s holiday, setting off late.  The train halts in Didcot and he hitchhikes a lift the rest of the way arriving around midnight.  Dropped at the edge of the city, he walks in.  Drawn to a shop whose awning has been left down, idle curiosity leads him to try the door.  Finding it unlocked he enters an empty toyshop, then climbs the stairs to flat above where he discovers the body of an old woman who’s been strangled.  Just as he’s leaving he’s knocked unconscious.  Waking four hours later he makes his escape and heads for a police station.  When they return to the shop it is no longer a toyshop but a grocer’s and there’s no sign of a body.  Had Cadogan been dreaming or had an elderly woman been murdered the night before?  His Oxford don friend, Gervase Fen, decides to investigate, convinced of foul-play.

The Moving Toyshop is a locked room, crime farce.  Crispin writes in taut, tight prose, that is all show and no tell so that the plot moves along a jaunty pace.  The characterisation is nicely observed, especially the double act of Cadogan, the poet out of his depth, and Fen, the bright detective who ignores the law.  The other principles are also well penned.  The plot is quite intricate, and the puzzle is agreeably knotted.  A streak of dark humour runs throughout and as the story unfolds the farce deepens, so that by the end there are dozens of people chasing each other round Oxford in a set of caper sequences.  The only real issue is that plot does rest on a set of coincidences and actions that are unlikely, which the author tries to paste over by conversing directly with reader (see post yesterday).  In many ways this doesn’t really matter as the story remains a very enjoyable romp.  Overall, a fun and engaging tale.


pattinase (abbott) said...

It's been some years since I read it but it's remembered fondly.

seana graham said...

Me too.

Peggy Ann said...

On my book shelf and I can't wait to get to it! Nice review..