Written by: Bruce Priddy
Every day we make promises, little promises meant heart and soul, but that are lost in the noise of life. Then, when tragedy comes, be it death or the loss of a relationship, we remember. We bargain in reverse, convinced the inevitable wasn’t so, if only we had fulfilled any one of those forgotten promises. “If only” can possess us. We become our broken promises.
In Tim Lebbon’s The Thief of Broken Toys, we find a man, Ray, grieving the death of his son and the decay of his marriage, unable to move on from either. Ray is given an opportunity most of us are not, to see those little broken promises fulfilled and his fractured life repaired. There is a price to be extracted, of course. There is always a price.
The Thief of Broken Toys is not a horror tale in any traditional or popular sense. There are no abominations from beyond space and time, no serial killers stalking. The ghosts are the ghosts we all carry. Here, the horror has already come by the time we are witness to Ray’s life, come but not gone. It lingers, Ray subject to it every day. This horror is one mundane but far more fearsome than any of the aforementioned imaginary terrors, because we know it is real, one that can strike any of us.
In the few short days we spend with Ray our hearts break for his loss, both what he lost before we met him and what he loses after. His son may have passed on, but Ray tells his estranged wife, and us, “There is a life after…” We see the dissolution of this life after. As the last paragraph closes, we are left to mourn for Ray, who has no idea what he has lost.
Lebbon shows off expert prose and storytelling in this tale of a man unable to find balance and what that inability costs him. Though only 140-plus pages, it would be a disservice to The Thief of Broken Toys to say it is “only” that length. Lebbon packs more emotion and character into 140 pages than many authors do in works of much longer length. Every line, every word is written by a master at the top of his craft.
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