The Thief of Broken Toys
By Tim Lebbon
Published by ChiZine Publications, 2010
I always look forward to a new Tim Lebbon novella. That’s not to dismiss his many excellent novels (e.g. Bar None, Fallen, The Island) nor his extensive short story back catalogue many of which have now been collected together in Last Exit For the Lost (review soon). No, it’s just that Tim Lebbon novellas are usually something very special. The author himself has acknowledged that he feels the novella is the perfect length for horror. Large enough to allow a full exploration of the characters but short enough not to lose any of the impact of the horror within. Some of his previous novellas have been among the most powerful pieces of horror writing available anywhere (if you haven’t read White yet, then stop reading this and go and buy yourself a copy).
The Thief Of Broken Toys is a tragic, strange, emotional piece which satisfies on every level.
We meet Roy and Elizabeth following the unexpected death of their young son Toby. Wrought with guilt and at a loss as to how to carry on they have separated, leaving Roy alone with his memories in the former family home. Long walks along the rain battered Cornish coastline give Roy time to think and it is on one of these walks that he meets a stranger who promises him potential relief from his tortured feelings but at what price?
This is a story which exists at the borders, the very edges of our normal existence. Night and day, winter and summer, town and country, love and loss and ultimately, life and death. All these boundaries are brought to bear on the fragility of the human spirit. The loss and the conflicting emotions are brilliantly portrayed and brought to life against the backdrop of the wild Cornish coastal scenery.
There is little horror here other than the fear for our own and our families mortality. Instead, there is a strange mystical inference. The old man appears as some kind of angelic figure, a fisher king but with no clear motivation his presence may be good or bad. The emotional torment Roy feels through, not only the loss of his child but also, the loss of his family structure leads him to pursue an avenue that he may not otherwise venture down and the reader is with him through every difficult decision.
Once again Tim Lebbon has delivered a beautifully crafted, marvellously written and emotionally powerful novella. Highly recommend.