Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads, The Classic Club

The Moving Toyshop – Edmund Crispin

Classic
5*s

Written in 1946 this is actually the third in the author’s series featuring the Oxford Professor of English Language and Literature Gervase Fen, but the first one that I have read and this one is featured in Martin Edwards’ brilliant book The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books.

In this book we meet famous poet Richard Cadogan who is seeking inspiration and so taps up his publisher for some money. That gets him just enough for a short holiday to Oxford. Clearly not very good on the organisational front after some hitch-hiking he finds himself on the deserted high street late at night and enters a toy shop, as you do, and finds a body of an elderly woman, clearly murdered. Poor old Richard is knocked out and locked in a cupboard by an unknown assailant. So it isn’t until the morning that he can alert anyone, by which time when he leads the finest of Oxfordshire’s constabulary to the high street, the toyshop has vanished.

Ultimately this is a locked room puzzle that needs a mind of a particular type to unlock the mystery and of course the local police aren’t terribly interested there being no body, no toyshop and therefore one has to assume no crime. Richard Cadogan isn’t to be thwarted though, he knows what he saw and so he calls on his old friend Gervase Fen to help. Gervase hops into his temperamental and somewhat erratically driven car, Lily Christine to investigate.

The unravelling of the mystery involves a legacy, one of the most often used device of the time but no less compelling for that, a sprinkling of limericks and a suitably complicated execution of a crime – fictional criminals of this era seemingly wanting to make things as difficult for themselves as those who may wind up investigating it.
Of course our duo don’t hand their suspicions over to the police, after all a poet and a university professor are quite entitled to work things out for themselves, even roping others into helping out

“I don’t think this is going to work,” Mr. Beavis remarked with some apprehension.
“It will work,” Fen responded confidently, “because no one expects this sort of trick outside a book”

The wonder of this novel is not so much the mystery, although that was well-executed, but the brilliant double-act that are Fen and Cadogan. While they are racing around in cars or sitting in bars stalking out various characters, they play silly games to pass the time such as unintentionally loathsome characters in literature, horrible classics and the most unreadable books of all time. All great fun although I have to admit that the use of unfamiliar phrases and words meant I am fully aware I didn’t quite get every humorous message, but I got enough to keep me fully entertained. Being set in Oxford even the local policeman is interested in literature..

Gervase, has it ever occurred to you that Measure for Measure is about the problem of Power?”
Don’t bother me with trivialities now” said Fen, annoyed, and rang off.

And even the lorry driver that gave Richard a lift at the start of the book reads from the circulating library citing “lady’s somebody’s lover” as an example of a recent read.

Most of all this book is fun with a capital F. I’ll be honest I wasn’t sure quite what to expect but I fell in love with the characters, the bizarreness and the rattling pace which was enhanced by the humour.

The Moving Toyshop is number 39 on The Classics Club list and the third of my fifty choices that I’ve read and reviewed. A great introduction into my Classic Crime Fiction.

 

First Published UK: 1946
Publisher: Penguin 
No of Pages: 245
Genre: Classic Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Weekly Posts

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph (April 3)

Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, from Tuesday/First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Vicky from I’d Rather Be At The Beach who posts the opening paragraph (sometime two) of a book she decided to read based on the opening. Feel free to grab the banner and play along.

I thought I’d go with an older book this time, one of my classic crime fiction reads for The Classic Club which was first published in 1946. The Moving Toyshop by Edmund Crispin was written at a different time with different needs, but lets see how different the opening page is…

Blurb

Richard Cadogan, poet and would-be bon vivant, arrives for what he thinks will be a relaxing holiday in the city of dreaming spires. Late one night, however, he discovers the dead body of an elderly woman lying in a toyshop and is coshed on the head. When he comes to, he finds that the toyshop has disappeared and been replaced with a grocery store. The police are understandably sceptical of this tale but Richard’s former schoolmate, Gervase Fen (Oxford professor and amateur detective), knows that truth is stranger than fiction (in fiction, at least). Soon the intrepid duo are careening around town in hot pursuit of clues but just when they think they understand what has happened, the disappearing-toyshop mystery takes a sharp turn…

Erudite, eccentric and entirely delightful – Before Morse, Oxford’s murders were solved by Gervase Fen, the most unpredictable detective in classic crime fiction. Amazon

 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph ~ Intro

Well first it starts with a map, ok, a fairly rudimentary one but I can’t resist a map!

And then the book starts, straight into an action scene.

 

1, The Episode of the Prowling Poet 

Richard Cadogan raised his revolver, took careful aim and pulled the trigger. The explosion rent the small garden, and like the widening circles which surrounded a pebble dropped into the water, created alarms and disturbances of diminishing intensity throughout the suburb of St John’s Wood. From the sooty trees, their leaves brown and gold in the autumn sunlight, rose flights of startled birds. In the distance a dog began to howl. Richard Cadogan went up to the target and inspected it in a dispirited sort of way. It bore no mark of any kind.

‘I missed it,’ he said thoughtfully. ‘Extraordinary.’

 

But perhaps not as different as you might imagine?

Would you keep reading? Hint – I did, and my review will be posted soon!

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week in Books (March 21)

This Week In Books
Hosted by Lipsy Lost & Found my Wednesday post gives you a taste of what I am reading this week. A similar meme is run by Taking on a World of Words

My current read is The Moving Toyshop by Edmund Crispin one of my reads for The Classics Club first published in 1946.



Blurb

Richard Cadogan, poet and would-be bon vivant, arrives for what he thinks will be a relaxing holiday in the city of dreaming spires. Late one night, however, he discovers the dead body of an elderly woman lying in a toyshop and is coshed on the head. When he comes to, he finds that the toyshop has disappeared and been replaced with a grocery store.

The police are understandably sceptical of this tale but Richard’s former schoolmate, Gervase Fen (Oxford professor and amateur detective), knows that truth is stranger than fiction (in fiction, at least). Soon the intrepid duo are careening around town in hot pursuit of clues but just when they think they understand what has happened, the disappearing-toyshop mystery takes a sharp turn… Amazon

The last book I finished was Dear Mrs Bird by A.J. Pearce which will be published on 5 April 2018.

Blurb

London, 1941. Emmeline Lake and her best friend Bunty are trying to stay cheerful despite the Luftwaffe making life thoroughly annoying for everyone.

Emmy dreams of becoming a Lady War Correspondent and when she spots a job advertisement in the newspaper she seizes her chance – but after a rather unfortunate misunderstanding, she finds herself typing letters for the formidable Henrietta Bird, the renowned agony aunt of Woman’s Friend magazine. Mrs Bird is very clear: letters containing any form of Unpleasantness must go straight into the bin. But as Emmy reads the desperate pleas from women who may have Gone Too Far with the wrong man, or can’t bear to let their children be evacuated, she decides the only thing for it is to secretly write back . . .

Irresistibly funny and enormously moving, Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pearce is a love letter to the enduring power of friendship, the kindness of strangers and the courage of ordinary people in extraordinary times. NetGalley

Next up is another book being published on 5 April 2018; Our House by Louise Candlish. I’ve loved the previous novels I’ve read by this author so I’m really looking forward to this one.

Blurb

On a bright January morning in the London suburbs, a family moves into the house they’ve just bought in Trinity Avenue.

Nothing strange about that. Except it is your house. And you didn’t sell it.

For better, for worse.

When Fi arrives home to find a removals van outside her house, she is completely blind-sided. Trinity Avenue has been her family’s home for years. Where are all her belongings? How could this have happened? Desperately calling her ex-husband, Bram, who owns the house with her, Fi discovers he has disappeared.

For richer, for poorer.

The more Fi uncovers, the more she realises their lives have been turned upside by a nightmare of their own making. A devastating crime has been committed, but who exactly is the guilty party? What has Bram hidden from her – and what has she hidden from him?

Till death us do part.

Any of these take your fancy? What are you reading this week – do share in the comments box below.

Posted in Weekly Posts

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph (March 6)

Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, from Tuesday/First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Vicky from I’d Rather Be At The Beach who posts the opening paragraph (sometime two) of a book she decided to read based on the opening. Feel free to grab the banner and play along.

It’s been a while since I’ve featured crime fiction in this meme and today I’ve decided to see how one of the classic crime writers chose to open their novel.

The Moving Toyshop by Edmund Crispin was published in 1946 and was nominated by P.D. James as one of her five “most riveting crime novels.” Another fan is Val McDermid said of the novel “”A classic crime novel with a surreal streak… It’s a clever, energetic romp, written with wit.”



Blurb

Richard Cadogan, poet and would-be bon vivant, arrives for what he thinks will be a relaxing holiday in the city of dreaming spires. Late one night, however, he discovers the dead body of an elderly woman lying in a toyshop and is coshed on the head. When he comes to, he finds that the toyshop has disappeared and been replaced with a grocery store.

The police are understandably sceptical of this tale but Richard’s former schoolmate, Gervase Fen (Oxford professor and amateur detective), knows that truth is stranger than fiction (in fiction, at least). Soon the intrepid duo are careening around town in hot pursuit of clues but just when they think they understand what has happened, the disappearing-toyshop mystery takes a sharp turn… Amazon

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph ~ Intro

Richard Cadogan raised his revolver, took careful aim and pulled the trigger. The explosion rent the small garden and, like the widening circles which surround a pebble dropped into the water, created alarms and disturbances of diminishing intensity throughout the suburbs of St. John’s Wood. From the sooty trees, their leaes brown and gold in the autumn sunlight, rose flights of startled birds. In the distance a dog began to howl. Richard Cadogan went up to the target and inspected it in a dispirited sort of way. It bore no mark of any kind.

‘I missed it,’ he said thoughtfully. ‘Extraordinary.’

Well I want to know more, how about you? What do you think?