Pink Dog

Edmund Crispin’s The Moving Toyshop no longer moves me

The Moving Toyshop by Edmund Crispin - book coverI remember reading Edmund Crispin’s detective thriller The Moving Toyshop as a child and enjoying it hugely. Alas, I should have left my childhood memories there for, on rereading the book recently, I still found the detective, Gervase Fen, an entertainingly quirky character, but the book overall now seems horribly dated.

Published in 1945 (and set before the Second World War) the book’s attitudes towards women is cringe-inducingly antiquated, including the low point of judging a woman’s marriage status by the size of her bosom and the endless succession of women easily bowled over by having chocolates proffered.

Other parts of the book can be viewed more charitably, especially the way that as a classic crime novel much of what seems familiar in it now was in fact innovative at the time but has become so copied by other authors since that it is easy to miss its originality. Likewise, the reliance on a large number of plot coincidences of varying plausibility is very much part of the detective novel genre that this novel sits in. Complaining about them is a bit like complaining that the book includes murders. If that’s not the thing for you, then it’s not just this novel but the whole genre you should avoid.

That all does however make the book more interesting as a period piece (especially if, like me, you are a big fan of Christopher Fowler, for his The Victoria Vanishes is in large part a homage to The Moving Toyshop) than as a thriller in its own right.

There are other classic detective novels of the time that have aged more gracefully, but if you’re interested in how detective novels used to be written then this is still an interesting and at times entertaining read, with much of the farcical humour still good for laugh out loud entertainment.

Buy¬†Edmund Crispin’s The Moving Toyshop here.

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