Archdeacon Sidney Chambers (Sidney Chambers and the Dangers of Temptation, 2016, etc.) is torn between his vocations as detective and as Anglican priest in six interlinked stories set amid the discontent of 1970s Britain.
Two of the local hippies are killed, not entirely by accident, by their own herbal concoctions gathered in “The Bluebell Wood.” Someone embezzles from the church’s collection plate, while Sidney’s dear friend Amanda tries to establish the “Authenticity” of a previously unknown Goya painting she purchases at a ruinous auction price. In “Insufficient Evidence,” Sidney struggles to support his friend, journalist Helena Mitchell, when she’s raped by a colleague and disbelieved by the justice system. The most traditional puzzler, “Ex Libris,” tracks the theft of a priceless medieval volume from a Cambridge library. When Sidney’s teenage nephew, Louis, disappears from his home during “The Long Hot Summer,” Sidney rejects the dire possibility of suicide and instead tracks him in hopes that he’s joined a political movement. Throughout these tales, Sidney’s daughter, Anna, grows older, while his wife, Hildegard, draws closer to her musical friend, Rolfe—and possibly farther from Sidney. Finally, personal tragedy comes to Sidney himself and shakes him to his core, but he still believes in “The Persistence of Love.”
Fans of the series may appreciate the continuing tales of beloved characters, thick with references to previous adventures and tragedies, but newcomers will be left out in the cold.