1955: Canon Sidney Chambers, loveable priest and part-time detective, is back. Accompanied by his faithful Labrador, Dickens, and the increasingly exasperated Inspector Geordie Keating, Sidney is called to investigate the unexpected fall of a Cambridge don from the roof of King's College Chapel; a case of arson at a glamour photographer's studio and the poisoning of Zafar Ali, Grantchester's finest spin bowler.
Alongside his sleuthing, Sidney has other problems. Can he decide between his dear friend the glamorous socialite Amanda Kendall and Hildegard Staunton, the beguiling German widow? To make up his mind Sidney takes a trip abroad, only to find himself trapped in a web of international espionage just as the Berlin Wall is going up.
©2013 James Runcie (P)2013 Isis Publishing Ltd
This is a collection of six short stories, each of which stands on its own, though there are some connections between them, and some characters are present in each story. The protagonist is, of course, Sidney Chambers, a Church of England canon in Grantchester, a bucolic village close to Cambridge University. Sidney's sideline is criminal investigation, via his friendship with Cambridgeshire policeman Geordie Keating.
Sidney is a mild-mannered man, but there is some spice to his life. He has two women in his life: Amanda, his longtime close friend, and Hildegarde, the German widow who he met in the first volume in this series, when her husband was murdered. In this volume, the stories range from the murder of a Muslim grocer to a close shave for Sidney when he visits Hildegarde in Germany just as the Iron Curtain is ringing down.
Author James Runcie is the son of Robert Runcie, the Archbishop of Canterbury in the 1980s, so he comes by his interest in churchmen honestly. In the website about the Sidney Chambers series, he writes that he plans to have six novels in the series, beginning in 1953 and ending in 1978, writing about a period in which there were vast changes in English society.
Runcie's strong suit is his ability to evoke the feel of the village and the university in the 1950s, so soon after the war's end. The book should be a rewarding experience for those who reading for atmosphere and storytelling. The avid mystery reader may be less pleased, because the crimes tend to be solved in a burst of exposition. There isn't the seeding of clues that allows the careful reader to figure out the whodunnit.
Avoid the audiobook! The reader, Peter Wickham, is terrible at women's voices. In particular, he makes Amanda sound like a little old woman, when she's supposed to be a wealthy young society woman.
Sidney Chambers, Canon in the Church of England, finds himself drawn into mysteries during his ministry to the people of Cambridge. These short stories are entertaining and amusing while also being solid mysteries which are not simply curiosities featuring a novelty sleuth in the figure of the investigating priest. Enjoy them, perhaps with tea, perhaps with a single malt, but Sidney wouldn't recommend a sherry ...
"A Sunday afternoon book"
I like the characters, I enjoyed the overall plot arc, the very idealised view of country life and its a very easy read without being childish.
None, but its quite like Midsummer Murders, Morse and Father Brown TV shows for very obvious reasons though there is a bit more love interest than all three.
I think he is able to get across some of the gruff pomposity of some of the members of the University etc without detracting from other more reflective moments.
Not massively, though the ending was nice
My main criticism is that the author does spend a bit too much trying to make some of the people in the books seem important, clever, high achievers etc and it just feels a bit too much though I accept it puts the book in its historical concept.
That said, I'd buy the next in the series, if one comes out. I like it, its not too taxing, is enjoyable, engaging and really just rather pleasant; like a cool beer on a sunny Sunday afternoon.
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