Sunday, June 09, 2024

The Moving Toyshop, by Edmund Crispin (again)

"'Let's go left,' Cadogan suggested. 'After all, Gollancz is publishing this book.'" (p. 87)

It's more than a decade since I first read The Moving Toyshop and, having really enjoyed it then, I'm surprised how little stuck in the memory. One thing was the basic wheeze: Richard Cadogan stumbling drunk into a toyshop to find a dead body, only to return with the police to find the body and the whole toyshop gone. To solve the mystery, he calls on his friend, the eccentric Oxford don Gervase Fen. 

Then there's the thrilling final sequence on a merry-go-round, borrowed by Alfred Hitchcock for Strangers on a Train. But sadly, between these two brilliant bookends, there's a lot of running around and literary gags that - though enjoyable - lack the mad and visual heft to linger.

Reading it after the two preceding novels (The Case of the Gilded Fly and Holy Disorders), it's also notable that this third instalment isn't set during the war as they are. We're not actually told when events take place - though the next novel, Swan Song, will reveal that The Moving Toyshop took place before the war and so precedes those two earlier novels. 

At one point, while incarcerated and with Cadogan unconscious, Fen amuses himself coming up with titles for further accounts of his adventures:

"'Fen steps in,' said Fen. 'The Return of Fen. A Don Dares Death (A Gervase Fen Story) ... Murder Stalks the University ... The Blood on the Mortarboard. Fen Strikes Back ... My dear fellow, are you all right? I was making up titles for Crispin.'" (p. 81)

Not even halfway through a third book and it's poking fun at the idea of this as a series; Fen established enough to be mocked just as much as anyone else in the literary world. 

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