The Moving Toy Shop (1945) | Edmund Crispin
This book epitomizes all that is best about comic crime novels. Mined from the same seam as John Dickson Carr’s The Blind Barber. Surreal plot, rococo prose flourishes, larger than life characters and a foot to the floor pace. This is a delight to read and Gervase Fen is one of the most enjoyable fictional characters of the 20th Century.
The guest lead in this Fen novel, the character of Cadogan – who is that particularly post-War creature: a modern poet – was based partly on Crispin’s friend Philip Larkin. Larkin also helped out by writing the poetry sections. My copy is a Penguin Green and White with a cover illustration that nods towards Cubo-Futurism. Vintage typesetting. There’s nothing like a cosy English murder with a bizarre setting and outrageous happenings to get you turning the pages. A man walks into Oxford by moonlight. A woman is murdered in a toy shop. The toy shop moves. Read it in a day.