Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death
by James Runcie
Bloomsbury, 2012. 392 pages. Mystery.
Grantchester, 1954. Sidney Chambers, a rural vicar, canon at the cathedral, and a part-time lecturer at Cambridge, can't seem to keep from getting involved in criminal investigations, much to the disgust of his housekeeper. From theft and kidnapping to murder, Canon Chambers discovers that he has a unique gift to delve into a problem and find solutions to some of the most baffling mysteries sleepy Grantchester has seen.
Runcie's stories have just been brought to life by the BBC in their new PBS series Grantchester and, having seen the show and read the book, I think they've done a creditable job. What makes Sidney Chambers so likeable (and unique, when it comes to sleuthing clergymen) is his complete humanity. He never comes across as sanctimonious, but he deeply believes in a Christian life and struggles between his calling to trust his fellow man and the nature of the crimes he sees. His inner battle to be normal (he loves jazz and hates dry sherry) while participating fully in his professional duties is almost of as much interest as the mysteries themselves. Whether the BBC continues the series or not, I think these will be books worth keeping your eye on.