The Toy Thief — D. W. Gillespie

October 6, 2018


TITLE: The Toy Thief
AUTHOR: D. W. Gillespie
RELEASES: October 6th, 2018; Flame Tree Press
GENRE: Horror

SYNOPSIS: Jack didn’t know what to call the nameless, skeletal creature that slunk into her house in the dead of night, stealing the very things she loved the most. So she named him The Toy Thief…

There’s something in Jack’s past that she doesn’t want to face, an evil presence that forever changed the trajectory of her family. It all began when The Toy Thief appeared, a being drawn by goodness and innocence, eager to feed on everything Jack holds dear. What began as a mystery spirals out of control when her brother, Andy, is taken away in the night, and Jack must venture into the dark place where the toys go to get him back. But even if she finds him, will he ever be the same?


Sometimes you find a book that sounds like it’s going to check all of your boxes—especially as a horror fan, when you come across a plot that happens to specifically push some of your “fear buttons”—and it can be nerve-wracking to pick up those stories. If you’re anything like me, you hype yourself up (with or without anyone else’s help). Sometimes, things turn out perfectly, and your self-imposed hype pays off! Other times, well…

To have a sibling, especially a close one, is to have a greatest enemy and a truest friend, but it’s always been like that, hasn’t it?


Other times, the book falls flat on its face and leaves you wishing you had never even taken the time to read it, because not only have you spent hours of your time on a story you didn’t enjoy, but you’ve got post-hype-letdown disappoint looming over you. That feeling is exactly what I’m going through while writing this review. I’ve sat here for an hour staring at an empty Word document, trying to force myself to review this book, because I found it disappointing in so many ways that I don’t even want to get into them all.

Let’s start with the biggest issue: the narrative style. The entire story is very close to full stream-of-consciousness, and if you’re not familiar with that, it essentially means that the plot jumps around haphazardly as things pop into the storyteller’s mind. We constantly switch between Jack’s current-day thoughts and her memories, and that is a difficult narrative style to pull off.

As for the narrator herself: Jack is a tremendously pretentious, arrogant, rude, and unlikable woman, and reading this story through the lens of her memories as well as her adult biases on those incidents is downright eyeroll-inducing at times. Just a few gems for you:

  1. After shaming the appearance of her blind date, she goes on an internal rant about how “out of his league” she is and how he must be stunned to even sit across the table from her (though she’s earlier admitted that she hasn’t had much luck with catching men’s eyes in the past).
  2. She states on more than one occasion that she is smarter than most people (we are never given any evidence of this being true).

Babies do that sometimes. You don’t know me very well, but believe me when I say I didn’t kill her on purpose.

She’s self-absorbed enough to convince herself that everything and anything going wrong in the world around her is to blame on her mother passing away during childbirth—which is a piece of her backstory that we are reminded of in nearly every chapter. The guilt she describes not only feels insincere and put-upon, but it reaches repetitive levels very early in the book.

Beyond Jack, there’s her brother Andy, who is something else from the beginning. One of our first introductions to him involves mutilation of an animal that Jack thinks was already dead (we’re never quite certain), and it gets worse from there—but there’s nothing scary about Andy, because Jack isn’t afraid of him. This is one of those instances that I think could’ve benefited tremendously from a third person POV, because it’s hard to care about what a belligerent asshole Andy is when Jack is constantly making excuses for him or blaming herself (and the “murder” of their mother) for his behavior.

Finally, there’s the creature itself—the Toy Thief the story takes its name from—which is easily the best part of the story. The descriptions of this creature are creepy enough (I’m especially fond of the way it crawls around on walls and ceilings), but the development of its motives and history often felt clouded. It seemed as though there were a lot of random, small ideas thrown together into a conglomerate that the author hoped would stick. Then again, maybe that’s my fault; by the time we began to learn much about what makes the Toy Thief the way it is, I had stopped caring much about anything that happened in this story.

Final thoughts—do I recommend this story? If you enjoy stream-of-consciousness writing, aren’t picky about your narrators, don’t mind incredibly rude main characters, and aren’t going to look too long at the plot holes, sure, give it a try. Otherwise, there are definitely better creature horror reads out there, and other authors have done this whole storytelling-via-childhood-memories writing style much better.

Content warnings for death of a parent, mutilation, suicide

All quotes come from an advance copy and may not match the final release. Thank you so much to Flame Tree Press for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review!




More about Destiny @ Howling Libraries

Just a horror aficionado/geek girl trying to juggle motherhood, reading, blogging, gaming, and everyday life.

    1. I love how detailed your reviews are without giving too much away. You always touch on the right points that make me want to put a book on my TBR or not at all. The Toy Thief sounded so promising, too. Just the description of the main character makes this a no from me. But it was a great review!

    1. Ugh this book was terrible and I had the exact same reading experience as you. The best part of the story is definitely the Thief (REASON I WANTED TO READ IT), and I wish the story centered around those events as they happened.

    1. Jack was already really aggravating, but the moment that blind date happened, I knew I was gonna hate her the whole way through.
      But, all of your points are so good & you were able to put so many of my thoughts in words that I couldn’t seem to manage! I get you props for being able to finish this book as quickly as you did; I barely wanted to pick it up, haha.

      1. Oh my god, right?! The blind date… I was RAGING. When she started going on and on about how she was “out of his league” but then he suddenly started treating her like garbage because he noticed her missing fingers? Like… WTF ARE YOU EVEN ON ABOUT ?
        Thank you so much! Haha I have this weird thing where, when I hate a book or strongly dislike it, I’ll usually read it REALLY fast because it’s like I’m fueled by pettiness. ??

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