Wednesday, January 27, 2016

“Sidney Chambers and the Perils of the Night”

We’re back in Grantchester, near Cambridge and its famed university.  And Canon Sidney Chambers, vicar of Grantchester,  has his hands full with mysteries and romance, in Sidney Chambers and the Perils of the Night, the second volume of the Sidney Chambers/Grantchester mysteries by novelist and mystery writer James Runcie.

The basis for the television series Grantchester (shown on PBS in the United States last year), the Sidney Chambers mysteries are filled with questions and statements of faith, doubts, romance for Sidney, and distinctly nefarious things going on in and around Cambridge (which may soon threaten to rival Oxford for the number of fictional murders). This second volume of six stories covers several years, from 1955 to 1961.

Ostensibly, Chambers is helping his good friend, police inspector Geordie Keating, help solve crimes. But in this volume, the good canon takes more of a sleuthing role than his inspector friend.

In “The Perils of the Night,” a Cambridge professor falls to his death while trying to climb one of the university’s tall towers. It looks like an accident, but it is it? In “Love and Arson,” a photographer’s studio burns down, and a host of incriminating photos with it. “Unholy Week” concerns what initially looks like the accidental death of another Cambridge don (like I said, they’re dropping like flies; it’s as bad as Inspector Morse’s and Inspector Lewis’s Oxford). In “The Hat Trick,” a game of cricket is the way to a painful death and the facing down of racial prejudice. “The Uncertainty Principle” comes very close to home for Chambers, with him having to investigate his close friend Amanda’s fiancée. And in “Appointment in Berlin,” Sidney travels to West Berlin (this is 1961) to visit Hildegard Staunton, who may (or may not) become Mrs. Chambers. Instead of a restful respite from the rigors of Cambridge, he finds himself thrown into a prison in East Germany.

Janes Runcie
Through each story, Runcie also develops Sidney’s romantic attachments. Amanda is an old friend who simply can’t imagine herself marrying a canon. Hildegard, whose husband was murdered in one of the stories in the first volume, Sydney Chambers and the Shadow of Death, has moved back to Germany, but she and Sidney keep exchanging visits. (By the end of the sixth story in this volume, the romantic “mystery” is resolved and Sidney finally marries.)

Runcie has two more volumes in the series, The Problem of Evil and The Forgiveness of Sins, so there is more great fund (and entertaining reading) ahead.

Top photograph by George Hodan via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.


Martha Jane Orlando said...

More mystery stories to add to my wishlist, Glynn. I know I read your previous review, but must have forgotten to write down the title. Amazon will be hearing from me soon! Thanks!

hopeinbrazil said...

I enjoyed the first book a lot, but was disappointed in the BBC production - especially the episode showing the vicar to be immoral (which was not in the book). I look forward to the second book thanks to your review.