1940s Crime Mystery

The Moving Toyshop – Edmund Crispin

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.