The Moving Toyshop – Edmund Crispin

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The Moving Toyshop is a Penguin classic crime book, originally published in 1946. It is a light, supposedly comic, mystery set in Oxford. The story begins with a poet returning to Oxford late one night. He finds the body of an old woman in a toyshop, but the next morning the toyshop, and the body have vanished. The police are not interested in a crime, which to them doesn’t seem to exist, so the poet persuades his friend, an English professor, to help him investigate.

I found the references to Oxford fascinating, as I was born there, and have visited it fairly frequently. The geography of the city hasn’t changed much in the last 60 years, but the attitude of the residents is very different – people seemed to trust each other a lot more then! The language is very quaint, and it is lovely to read a book so full of Englishness! There was a brief mention of the male nudity on the banks of the Thames, which I was vaguely aware of, but I found a fascinating article about the history of this section of the river here.

My main problem with the book was that it was a bit too whimsical for me. I don’t find this gentle humour very funny, so I think the main attraction of this sort of book is lost on me. There were lots of other little things which irritated me, but what annoyed me most was the way everyone readily admitted their role in the crime. The “I’m going to kill you, but first let me tell you everything I’ve done” scene was the worst offender!

Overall, I found this be be a light, reasonably entertaining mystery, and would recommend it to anyone who loves Oxford.

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  1. Molly says:

    I have had the pleasure to visit Oxford twice – but only very brief, “tourist” stuff. I am hoping, praying, and keeping fingers crossed that I can study there in the summer of 2011. I simply cannot imagine living in a city with so much literary history!

  2. Jackie says:

    Molly – I hope you manage to study in Oxford – I’m sure you’ll love it there!

  3. Simon S says:

    Oh this sounds a mixed bag, I love the fact its full of englishness and crime, I love a good crime, and while I like humour (have you tried Agatha Raisin) this does indeed seem to takeit to new levels.

  4. Jackie says:

    Simon – Yes, I have tried Agatha Raisin, and it is similar, but I much prefer Agatha and her poisoned quiche! Agatha is a delightful character, this just seemed like two fools stumbling to solve a crime. I guess this book is great for revealing a slice of Englishness that has now disappeared, but the plot isn’t that good, and the characters weren’t very endearing. That is why I only recommend it to people who are interested in Oxford, not fans of cosy mysteries.

  5. Much of my family lives in England and I have had the pleasure of visiting Oxford several times. There is no place like it on earth. Cannot wait to read this book (which I will do within the next couple of weeks). “The Moving Toyshop” is such an English title & “Edmund Crispin” is such an English name. I love it! I do love Oxford so I will accept your recommendation and read the book. Very much look forward to it. Thanks Jackie! Until next time. Cheers!


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