13 August, 2015

#BookReview :: Sidney Chambers and the Problem of Evil (The Grantchester Mysteries #3) by James Runcie

Our favorite clerical detective is back with four longer mysteries in which Canon Sidney Chambers attempts to stop a serial killer with a grievance against the clergy; investigates the disappearance of a famous painting after a distracting display of nudity by a French girl in an art gallery; uncovers the fact that an "accidental" drowning on a film shoot may have been something more sinister; and discovers the reasons behind the theft of a baby from a hospital just before Christmas 1963.

In the meantime, Sidney wrestles with the problem of evil, attempts to fulfill the demands of his faithful Labrador, Dickens, and contemplates, as always, the nature of love. 

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The fact is that I am not as well read and well aware of the books out there as I would like to be. And blogging about books have given me an opportunity to discover more than I normally would have. My recent discovery of The Grantchester Mysteries is all thanks to Bloomsbury India, who sent over a review copy of the third book in the series.

Sidney Chambers is not a professional detective. In fact he is a vicar of Grantchester and honorary canon of Ely Cathedral. However, with his unique position in the town and access to so many families, he manages to solve crimes with a bit of help from the town inspector, Geordie Keating. This particular installment offers its readers with four standalone short stories. First is ‘The Problem of Evil’ where Sidney looks into a serial killer with a grudge against clergymen. The second story titled ‘Female, Nude’ deals with the disappearance of a painting while a nude woman made for a perfect distraction. The third in line was ‘Death by Water’, a case where an actor accidentally drowned, but it turned out to be a murder case. Finally ‘Christmas, 1963’ tells us how Sidney manages to solve the case of a parishioner’s missing baby.

The thing that I realized right off the bat is that Sidney Chambers is not our regular fictional detective. He is a clergyman whose insight to people and their lives is one of the strongest points he has. He is not a conventional protagonist and as such the stories also vary in terms of the cases he solves. From playing the role of clergyman in a movie to his love for jazz music, small and insignificant details make up the character of Sidney Chambers. It is indeed a refreshing change to read about Sidney Chambers and his adventures. Also, since it is set in a quaint little town in early to mid-twentieth century, there are no complex forensic details. While it may sound a little bland (after all we are so used to reading about the complexities of forensics in any sort of case these days) it is another aspect of the series that I seriously liked. Coming to the plot, they were pretty simple and straightforward, and any mystery aficionado would be able to guess the who and what factors. However, the stories have been presented in a manner that there is much of other things that a reader gets out of the book. For instance, the culture at that time, the mentality of common people, etc. The author has kept his language and narration style simple in order to compliment his plot and characters.

Overall, I loved the book for its simplicity. I will be sure to hunt out the previous books in the series, and also look up the TV series based on these books.

Review Copy from Bloomsbury India

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