Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Sidney Chambers and the Perils of the Night by James Runcie

Sidney Chambers and the Perils of the Night (Grantchester Mysteries, Volume 2) by James Runcie --- 356 pages

Sidney Chambers and the Perils of the Night is a collection of six fairly long short stories, set during the years 1955 to 1961, in the village of Grantchester not far from Cambridge University in England. The sleuth in these quiet mystery stories in Canon Sidney Chambers, a World War II veteran whose wartime experiences have led him to the Anglican priesthood. As the vicar of Grantchester, he is perfectly situated to insinuate himself into places where the police would encounter suspicion, and to persuade troubled souls to confide in him.

Runcie is particularly adept at invoking the atmosphere of the Cold War years filtering into the quiet backwaters of an English village or the rarefied atmosphere of University politics. But Sidney himself is also an intriguing character, by turns empathetic and totally clueless, pious and worldly, faithful  but full of doubts.

The thread connecting all the stories in this collection is Sidney' growing attraction to Hildegard Staunton, the German war bride of one of Sidney's first murder victims in the previous book in this series. The gradual progress of their relationship as Sidney comes to understand that celibacy is not a prerequisite of his vocation, is one of the charms of the series.

Fans of the Granchester Mysteries ITV television series (shown here on PBS Mystery!), loosely based on Runcie's clerical sleuth, will deduce from this that there are major plot divergences between the books and the television series. But enjoyment of the television universe does not preclude equal enjoyment of the parallel universe of the books. Two more books are planned for a six book series giving us a bird's eye view of British life from Queen Elizabeth's Coronation in 1953 to the marriage of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer in 1981.

Click HERE to read a review from Publishers Weekly.

Click HERE to read a review from Kirkus Reviews.

Click HERE to read a review from the Historical Novel Society web site.

Click HERE to read a review from the Curled Up with a Good Book blog.

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