Several years ago, discovering that the impossible crime novel was a thing, I read Anthony Boucher’s Nine Times Nine (1940), originally published as by H.H. Holmes, and loved it. I then discovered TomCat’s list of favourite impossible crime novels and was intrigued by the fact that, eschewing the accepted classic that Nine Times Nine is, Boucher’s later, less discussed The Case of the Solid Key (1941) was included there instead (TC, it must be said, is something of an iconoclast…). More Boucher followed, some of it disappointing, and last year I finally ran to ground a copy of TCotSK in a secondhand bookshop in Philadelphia and — at long, long last — here we go.
It’s undeniable that I have a slightly unusual relationship with some accepted classic GAD authors and do not necessarily always line up with the accepted wisdom where, say, Ngaio Marsh, Gladys Mitchell, Ellery Queen, and Dorothy L. Sayers are concerned.
We are here today to discuss The Moving Toyshop (1946) — Edmund Crispin’s third novel to feature his Oxford University don detective Gervase Fen — in full, spoiler-rich style…proceed no further if you wish read this book without knowing, y’know, everything that happens.
Sometimes quality and taste do not overlap. For instance, I have every reason to believe that The White Cockatoo (1934) by Mignon G. Eberhart is a very good book, but given that it veers far more heavily into the suspense/HIBK/EIRF schools of writing rather than anything qualifing as detection it’s not especially to my taste. It’s well- (if perhaps a little over-) written, has some good atmosphere, and introduces in the eponymous bird Pucci an unusual twist that enlivens the eventual resolution…but amidst all the mysterious happenings — sinister hotelier, sinister guests, sinister wind, sinister banging shutters, sinister everything — it’s just a bit too bland for my palate.