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jenn

Murder by Death

I read cozy and historical mysteries, a bit of Paranormal/UF, and to mix it up, I read science and gardening books on occasion.

The Moving Toyshop (Gervais Fen)

The Moving Toyshop - Edmund Crispin

Martin Edwards sums up The Moving Toyshop perfectly:

"Few crime novels can match Edmund Crispin's most celebrated mystery for sheer exuberance."

 

Exuberance is the perfect word for this book; it's comic without being comedic, and it's obvious (to me, anyway) that the author had a great time writing it.

 

I loved the premise from the start: a man stumbles into a toyshop at night and finds a dead body, but before he can do anything about it, he's knocked unconscious.  When he comes to, he finds himself in a closet with a locked door and an open window.  When he escapes out the window and brings the police back, the toyshop is gone and a grocery store is in its place.

 

In a bounty of blessings, the entirety takes place in Oxford and much of it inside the hallowed halls of the University itself.  Lear's limericks play a part in the plot, and there are a multitude of literary references (including a few disparaging comments about Jane Austen's work, which I'm going to try to forget about as everybody is wrong about something in life).  

 

I loved this book.  The writing was a joy to read and I can't remember the last time I read a book that had me running to a dictionary to look up words.  I can't tell you how refreshing it is to read an entertaining mystery that isn't written at fourth grade literacy levels.

 

It was not quite a 5-star read; for a reprint some 80 years after publication, it had a startling number of grammatical and copyediting issues, but the main quibble I have is the ending.  Hilarity aside (and truly, the mental image of a chase involving shop-girls, undergraduates, university dons and proctors, publishers, doctors, bikes, and cars has to be experienced), the solution to the mystery relied on the most frustrating (for the reader) technicality.  After all the fun I had reading this mystery and trying to figure it out, the solution left me saying "oh, come ON!" at the book, and the cats giving me the side-eye.

 

Doesn't matter - this book is a winner regardless, and while I don't always agree with Martin Edwards' take on what makes a classic crime novel, he gets my full agreement here.  The Moving Toyshop deserves it's place in the ranks of the best.