28 March, 2016

#BookReview :: Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death (The Grantchester Mysteries #1) by James Runcie

Sidney Chambers,the Vicar of Grantchester and Honorary Canon of Ely Cathedral, is a thirty-two-year old bachelor. Tall, with dark brown hair, eyes the colour of hazelnuts and a reassuringly gentle manner, Sidney is an unconventional clergyman and can go where the police cannot. In The Grantchester Mysteries, Sidney, together with his roguish friend Inspector Horatio‘Harry’ Keating, must enquire into the suspect suicide of a Cambridge solicitor, a scandalous jewellery theft at a New Year’s Eve dinner party, the unexplained death of a well-known jazz promoter and a shocking art forgery the disclosure of which puts a close friend in danger. Sidney discovers that being a detective, like being a clergyman, means that you are never off duty, but alongside the mysteries he solves he manages to find time for a keen interest in cricket, warm beer and hot jazz, and the works of Tolstoy and Shakespeare - as well as a curious fondness for a German widow three years his junior. With a whiff of Agatha Christie and a touch of Midsomer Murders, The Grantchester Mysteries introduces a wonderful new hero into the world of detective fiction.

The Shadow of Death is the first book in the Grantchester Mysteries series and introduces its protagonist Sidney Chambers. Having read Sidney Chambers and the Problem of Evil before picking this up, I already had the feel of its protagonist and knew what to expect. At the same time I was eager to see how the Author had introduces Sidney to the world.

Sidney Chambers is a clergyman who gets involved in mysteries mostly unintentionally. Being the clergyman of a small town, he is close to the people of his congregation and more trusted than the Police. As such he finds himself in a unique position to be able to help people around him and also the police. His background of a soldier adds to the shade of his character and I love the way he is flawed. It makes him more human and more believable of a character to me. This book is a collection of six stories. They each have different tones to the crimes they cover and as such the variety in the book keeps it refreshing. The plots of the stories are not very complicated. But being used to forensic aspect in mysteries, it was fun to see cases being solved in the old fashioned way. From murder to theft to adultery to alcoholism to PTSD, the stories cover a lot of themes – some of them central to our protagonist. The setting of English countryside also adds a certain charm to the story.

I have also watched the first season of Grantchester and have quite liked the show as well. This is one case where the book and the show have maintained a good balance even with certain changes. The book captures Sidney’s struggles and his beliefs in a much better manner than the TV series.

Review Copy received from NetGalley

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