Sidney Chambers is back for a fourth round of crimes to solve when his religious duties allow him time—or is it the other way around?
Canon Chambers, the vicar of the church in Grantchester, is curiously ambivalent for a man of faith. He tries to be a conscientious cleric, husband, and father, but in these six loosely connected stories, a good mystery can always send him haring across the countryside, to the exasperation of his wife, Hildegard. In “The Forgiveness of Sins,” the principal violinist of a string quartet walks into the church after his wife’s death by stabbing and claims sanctuary, an ancient law that no longer applies in 1964. In “Nothing to Worry About,” Sidney’s concern about an unhappy wife teaches him a painful lesson about the unintended consequences of intervention. Death by falling piano is the subject of “Fugue,” and in “A Following,” Sidney, newly elevated to Archdeacon of Ely, helps his former flame Amanda Kendall discover who’s sending the letters threatening to kill her if she goes ahead with marriage plans. In “Prize Day,” Sidney, agreeing to umpire a cricket match at a boys’ school, is on hand to witness a deadly explosion, and “Florence” casts him as suspect rather than detective. Throughout his adventures, Sidney is sustained by the help and blunt advice of his friend Inspector Geordie Keating and the love of his much-suffering Hildegard. However far he strays from his avowed intent, he always returns to preach with humility and compassion about what his sideline as a detective has taught him.
Runcie (Sidney Chambers and the Problem of Evil, 2014, etc.) gives his genial hero just enough love of a good pint, a pretty woman, and a complex puzzle to save him from blandness or buffoonery in these gently humorous and sometimes-poignant stories.