My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Confession: I love watching crime procedurals.
There’s something so fascinating to me about the mystery behind a crime: Whodunnit? Howdeydunnit? Whydeydunnit? Whodatdere?
Most of all, I like that they require little to no commitment to the show to watch — you don’t really need to know much about the detectives to understand the gathering of clues and the eventually nabbing of the perpetrator.
But, as a result, crime procedurals usually feel pretty one-dimensional — bad guy commits crime, good guys pick up clues along the way, sometimes in really geniusy ways, good guys figure out what happened, find bad guy, bad guy goes to jail or is punished in some other way.
The Moving Toyshop by Edmund Crispin reminded me a lot of a run-of-the-mill crime procedural in book form.
The mystery begins when a young poet, Richard Cadogan, decides to take a trip to Oxford to visit his friend, Professor of English Gervase Fen. Cadogan somehow finds himself in a toyshop, where he stumbles upon the body of an old woman. He’s then knocked out by an unseen assailant and, when he tries to lead the police back to the scene of the crime, he finds that the toyshop is nowhere to be found.
Fen is actually the protagonist of the book, but it took me a while to come to this conclusion because so much of the beginning of the book focused on Cadogan. It really wasn’t until I was a good third of the way through the book that I figured out that Fen was the sleuth, here. Those with snarky predilections might point out that I might not be enough of a sleuth myself to truly enjoy the book, to which I will retort that if I seem unenthusiastic about the book, it’s because I’m too much of an English major.
The sleuthing was decent; Crispin did a fair job of setting up the investigatory part of the book. And I did rather enjoy Fen’s witty banter with Cadogan — in my mind, the part of Fen is being played by a re-Englished Hugh Laurie. There were some entertaining chase scenes and a colorful cast of characters.
Maybe it’s because I’m the jaded product of an over-entertained generation, but the action was pretty flat to me. The big reveal was a huge letdown. When an author promises a mind-blowing mystery, then the reveal had better live up to the build-up. Unfortunately, Crispin’s big reveal left much to be desired.
That was my biggest problem with the book. It just didn’t deliver what it promised. It was an entertaining, mercifully quick read, but I doubt I’ll be picking up another Gervase Fen mystery anytime soon.