The Moving Toyshop by Edmund Crispin : Book Club Discussion Questions

A reminder, all our book club discussion questions contain spoilers.

‘Well, I’m going to the police,’ said Cadogan.  ‘If there’s one thing I hate, it’s the sort of book in which characters don’t go to the police when they’ve no earthly reason for not doing so.’

“You’ve got an earthly reason for not doing so immediately.”

“What’s that?”

“The pubs are open…Let’s go and have a drink before we do anything rash.”


the moving toyshopRichard Cadogan goes to see his friend in Oxford and arrives by a late train in the middle of the night. He is searching for a room to doss down in, when he notices a toyshop open. Richard has a nose about, and discovers a body. He is knocked unconscious and upon recovering, finds that the body, and the toyshop, have vanished. He recruits Gervase Fen, amateur sleuth and Oxford lecturer in literature, to unravel the mystery. The story is an early thriller comedy, but has the sorts of eccentrics and twists now common in the cozy mystery genre.

Discussion Questions

Do the jokes work? Crispin was one of the earlier writers to use tricks like his characters mentioning they are in a book, and at the time of publication he was a revolutionary. Has imitation made the original seem flatter?

Do you need to understand Lear, or any of the other literary allusions, to pick the puzzle?

The novel is tied strongly to Oxford, as a physical location, but also depends on the university culture of Oxford to motivate its characters. Is this a barrier to an Australian audience?

Is this a mystery novel, at its core, or is it basically a comedy with a mystery in the middle, to bind vignettes together?

There’s an odd scene toward the end where it seems that the male and female lead characters are going to have a romantic moment, but instead discuss literature pedantically, and part. What’s the point of that scene?

This book was written after the Second World War, but set before. Why do so many authors from the period do this? How does the humorous intent of this book intersect with this?

Useful Links

City Libraries have copies of this book in paperback and CD formats.