The Moving Toyshop is a comic crime novel by Edmund Crispin, published in 1946. The novel is the 3rd to feature the detective and Oxford don, Gervase Fen.
Richard Cadogan (a poet & friend of Gervase Fen) is struggling to write and sets off for Oxford in the middle of the night for inspiration. However he gets stranded in Didcot – he then gets a lift in a lorry to Oxford as far as the Headington roundabout and then sets off to walk into town. He gets lost and stumbles into a toyshop where he discovers a dead body.
The next morning having awoken bruised and battered by an unknown assailant he tells the police of the incident but the toyshop has vanished together with the body and there is a grocery shop in its place.
Cadogan seeks out his friend Fen (who he knows to be an amateur detective) and the two of them set out to solve this apparently non-existent crime – a quest which involves a great deal of dashing around the countryside in Fen’s sports car (Lily Christine III), sitting arguing about English literature, the gathering of a set of eccentric side-kicks and even more eccentric villains.
They end up uncovering a series of barely plausible complex happenings on their road to the truth.
This is one of the great comic crime novels and , in my opinion, one of the best Crime Novels full stop.
It is full of charm & high jinks, very funny at times and incredibly literate with everybody in the novel constantly quoting poetry and Jacobean drama and the fourth wall being breached on more than one occasion (my favourite is the exchange when deciding which road turning to follow – “Let’s go left”, Cadogan suggested. “After all, Gollancz is publishing this book.” – Victor Gollancz was a left-wing inclined supporter of socialist movements commissioning such works as The Road to Wigan Pier.)
I am taking part in the Golden Age Card of the Vintage Mystery Bingo in 2015 (Golden Age Vintage Mysteries must have been first published before 1960) and am treating this is my L3 entry (“Read One Book with an Amateur Detective”).
It could have been taken as L5 (“Read One Academic Mystery”), G4 (“Read One Locked Room or Impossible Mystery”), D6 (“Author whose first or last name begins with the same letter as yours” – Edmund Crispin was really Bruce Montgomery so MB reversed) or N2 (“Read One Book with a Place in the Title” – Toyshop)