{Book Review} Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death by James Runcie

The Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death: The Grantchester Mysteries

It is 1953, the coronation year of Queen Elizabeth II . Sidney Chambers, vicar of Grantchester and honorary canon of Ely Cathedral, is a thirty-two-year-old bachelor. Tall, with dark brown hair, eyes the color of hazelnuts, and a reassuringly gentle manner, Sidney is an unconventional clerical detective. He can go where the police cannot.

Together with his roguish friend, inspector Geordie Keating, Sidney inquires into the suspect suicide of a Cambridge solicitor, a scandalous jewelry theft at a New Year’s Eve dinner party, the unexplained death of a jazz promoter’s daughter, and a shocking art forgery that puts a close friend in danger. Sidney discovers that being a detective, like being a clergyman, means that you are never off duty, but he nonetheless manages to find time for a keen interest in cricket, warm beer, and hot jazz—as well as a curious fondness for a German widow three years his junior.

With a whiff of Agatha Christie and a touch of G. K. Chesterton’s Father Brown, The Grantchester Mysteries introduces a wonderful new hero into the world of detective fiction.*

*Review copy from publisher

Contrary to what I first expected, this book does not contain a singular plot. It is actually a collection of six cases, namely: The Shadow of Death; A Question of Trust; First, Do No Harm; A Matter of Time; The Lost Holbein, and; Honourable Men. They are arranged chronologically, and though some characters in the first case show up in the succeeding cases as well, you wouldn’t be handicapped if you decide to skip cases. Whichever suits your fancy, I suppose.

I liked this book. I found the cases smart and interesting. I found the character of Sidney Chambers, the protagonist, as particularly special because he was a vicar and even in the present time (the whole book is set in the ’50s) I find it hard put to comprehend a person like him to be involved with matters typically associated with the police. I like how, for lack of a better term, human Sidney Chambers is. True to his profession, he is loyal to his faith, and this is reflected in how he handles his cases diplomatically with a hint of the gentle sternness that makes him one of the most trusted people in town (and beyond). He is an extremely likable character and his being a vicar doesn’t feel alienating from ordinary souls like me, which I’m totally glad for. Some of the cases were predictable, but then I suppose it takes a lot to surprise mystery readers nowadays, and it is not really a hindrance, so it’s okay.

This book will be released tomorrow, so if you’re in the mood for some light mysteries, I suggest you check this book out!


In a nutshell…

Rating: 3/5
Paperback, 400 pages
Author: James Runcie
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
To be published on: April 24, 2012
Language: English
Genre: Mystery, Historical Fiction

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