The Moving Toyshop

Another great criminal conundrum set in Oxford is Edmund Crispin’s ‘The Moving Toyshop.’ Published in 1946, it features detective and Oxford don Gervase Fen, who has his work cut out in solving what is a rather puzzling set of events. Extremely fast-paced and more than a little comical, the famed crime writer P.D. James counted it amongst her top five crime novels.

When poet Richard Cadogan treats himself to a short break in Oxford with the advance of his latest publication, the last thing he expects to encounter on his arrival is the body of an elderly woman in a flat adjoining what appears to be a toyshop on Iffley Road. His midnight jaunt around the city is worsened further as, on entering the shop for closer inspection, he is knocked by an unknown assailant lurking in the shadows and it is only the next morning when he regains consciousness. Of course, the body has now disappeared and, strangely, the shop appears now to be not a toyshop but a grocery store. What is going on?

After managing to escape and raise the alarm, it falls to Cadogan’s old detective friend Fen to find out. A mysterious slip of paper, leading them to a suspiciously informative solicitor, marks the starting point of what becomes a very random trail of evidence. Strange will provisions written by an undoubtedly eccentric old lady, a beautiful shop assistant with blue eyes and a small spotted dog are all on the cards as the Oxford don strives to find out the truth – and ingeniously finds it within twenty four hours of Miss Tandy’s murder, leading to a capture of the gun-toting murderer in nearby Botley fairground.

Unlikely to say the least and more than a little absurd, the plot is clearly intended to be out the ordinary and readers would be hardpressed to take it seriously. Yet this comical uniqueness within its genre is perhaps one of the story’s most appealing features. If you’re after a humorous thriller with a bit of a difference, ‘The Moving Toyshop’ will not disappoint!

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