Monday, February 16, 2015

Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death by James Runcie

Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death (Grantchester Mysteries, Volume 1) by James Runcie --- 392 pages

James Runcie, author and filmmaker, is writing a series of cozy mysteries with a clergyman sleuth, set in the village of Grantchester near Cambridge, England.

Runcie, son of the late Robert Runcie, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1980 to 1991, based his hero in part upon his father. His inside view of the Anglican Church is both affectionate and unsparing.  Some have compared this series to Colin Dexter's acclaimed Inspector Morse series set in Oxford.  Morse of course loves opera and Sidney Chambers is a fan of jazz, but more fundamentally, Morse is an agnostic who would like to believe while Sidney is a believer struggling to maintain his faith.

What gives this series its bite is the opportunity to looks back at the very different social mores and assumptions that still held sway in Britain (and elsewhere) sixty years ago, even after the shock waves generated by World War II. The Shadow of Death is set in 1953, the year of Queen Elizabeth's coronation. Runcie is planning a series of at least six books, taking Sidney up to the 1981 wedding of Charles and Diana, and a Britain that the inhabitants of 1953 could not have imagined.

The first book is the basis for a six episode television series by ITV that premiered last fall in the UK and this January on PBS Masterpiece Mystery in the US. Two more books have been published: Sidney Chambers and the Perils of the Night and Sidney Chambers and the Problem of Evil.

Find out more about the Grantchester Mysteries by clicking HERE.

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