Six interrelated new stories about the crime-solving priest who struggles with his own frailties.
The Venerable Sidney Chambers, Archdeacon of Ely, is already facing at least one of “The Dangers of Temptation” in trying to give up alcohol for Lent when a deliberately provocative ex-parishioner who asks his help with her son draws Sidney and his friend Inspector Geordie Keating into the brutal murder of the leader of a commune dubbed the “Family of Love.” A post-finals celebration for students at the University of Cambridge gets out of hand in “Grantchester Meadows,” in which a cattle stampede and a missing heirloom necklace call on Sidney’s crime-busting talents. “The Trouble with Amanda” is Sidney’s former flame Amanda Richmond’s husband, Henry, whose disturbed and disturbing ex-wife suddenly drowns. Even if Sidney can prove that Henry isn’t guilty, what does the news mean for the Richmonds’ marriage? In “The Return,” Sidney’s former housekeeper gets the shock of her life when her long-lost husband reappears for unknown reasons and tempts Sidney into a flutter at the horse races. “A German Summer” is a holiday for Sidney and his family on the East German island where Sidney’s wife spent her summers as a child. Sidney endangers his own safety by trying to solve a crime everyone else wants him to leave alone. In “Love and Duty,” it’s nearly Lent again, and again Sidney plans to stop drinking at the same time he tries to bring tact to a blackmail case whose victim wants to keep his private life private. Although the stories’ allusions to free love, the moon landing, and Pink Floyd remind the reader of passing time, Sidney’s inquisitiveness, humility, and appreciation of both the sacred and the secular are as constant as in his previous adventures (Sidney Chambers and the Forgiveness of Sins, 2015, etc.).
The Swinging ’60s give Runcie’s sleuth in a cassock plenty of opportunity to stick his memorable nose in where it isn’t wanted.