Clergyman/detective Sidney Chambers returns in this collection of four new mysteries.
In “The Problem of Evil,” Canon Sidney Chambers and his German wife, Hildegard, return from a reconciliation service 17 years after the end of World War II to find two dead doves on their doorstep. After a fellow vicar is found suffocated in his own church, more dead birds presage the murders of more clergy members until Sidney helps his friend Inspector Geordie Keating find the killer. In “Female, Nude,” Sidney is at an art exhibit when a nude woman reciting French poetry creates a Happening. Then a valuable painting disappears, sending Sidney through the world of avant-garde art and to the French coastal town of Dieppe to solve the theft. In “Death by Water,” an old army friend asks Sidney to play a clergyman in a film version of The Nine Tailors. Sidney agrees without realizing what an ordeal he’s facing—not just due to the fact that his former mate is such a demanding director, but since one of the actors who’s supposed to drown in the film is all too good at his job. In the final episode, “Christmas, 1963,” Sidney, still mourning the loss of a favorite companion, anticipates the birth of his and Hildegard’s child. When someone else’s baby is kidnapped from the hospital, Sidney brings his most compassionate touch to the case in hopes of restoring the child to his parents. In all four tales, the gently eccentric Sidney proves himself a dedicated clergyman who’s so easily tempted to pursue a mystery that it’s no wonder his wife, his clerical superior and his friend the local inspector keep telling him to mind his own business.
Runcie (Sidney Chambers and the Perils of the Night, 2013, etc.), son of a former Archbishop of Canterbury, strikes a low-key balance of theology, humor, drama and crime in this collection of ecclesiastical cozies.