The Thief of Broken Toys is a novella that charts the journey of central character, Ray as he tries to come to terms with the grief of losing a child. The setting is a small, costal village in Wales with its rural backdrop providing a suitably minimalist canvas to paint this heart-breaking yet simple tale upon. Most of the focus remains on Ray and his relationship with his deceased child, Toby, and estranged wife, Elizabeth. Ray still lives alone in the family home, while Elizabeth finds comfort in the arms of his best friend, Jason. Toby's room remains exactly the same as the boy left it, with his box of broken toys (all of which Ray promised to fix but never did) providing the major plot device for the story.
This is a beautifully written adult fairytale which, for me, echoes a lot of Asian horror cinema which I have enjoyed through the years. It's a genre tale of sorts yet easily defies pigeonholing. Ultimately, this is a story about heartbreak and the ways people cope with loss - some distract themselves, others try to atone. There's no heavy message or resolution for such, only a journey, and thus proves both emotionally engaging and satisfying.
Overall, this is a brutally accessible, heart rending story, presented in a quality format by Chizine, who, from what I've read thus far, are one of the best emerging publishers of dark fiction. Highly recommended.