Edmund Crispin, a pseudonym for Robert Bruce Montgomery, is my favourite Golden Age detective author. Despite writing part of my Masters on his crime novels, I haven’t reached the point where I feel the urge to hurl them out of the nearest window yet, which is saying something about their lasting appeal. I’m slowly collecting multiple copies of all of his mystery books (and giving Mr. Bibliomouse copies of his Science Fiction compilations), including a first edition of The Moving Toyshop, and they have pride of place on my crime bookcase (yes, you heard me correctly. I have a whole bookcase for detective and crime fiction, and it’s not big enough…).
Crispin’s novels are intelligent, witty and strewn with literary references but they never feel pretentious or superior, as some authors tend to (Michael Innes, I’m looking at you). His detective is Gervase Fen, professor of English at St. Christopher’s, Oxford, and owner of Lily Christine II, a small red sports car prone to ill-timed breakdowns. The novels tend to be hectic, farcical and great fun, whilst still being really well-written and ingeniously plotted. I only guessed one murderer before it was revealed, and I read so many crime novels that usually I work it out in the first 3 chapters!
Crispin wrote 8 novels between 1944 and 1952, along with 2 collections of short stories and another novel, which wasn’t written until 1977. Of the first 8 novels, my favourites are The Moving Toyshop (which is probably the book that Crispin is most well-known for) and The Long Divorce, but all of them are fun and worth reading. They go particularly well with a big mug of coffee and a slab of cake, of which I think Fen would approve.