A cleric celebrates Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation year by assisting a detective inspector in solving a series of genteel crimes.
Canon Sidney Chambers, the bachelor vicar of Grantchester, has two best friends: Inspector Geordie Keating, who regularly loses to him at backgammon, and posh Amanda Kendall, junior curator at London’s National Gallery, who shares a flat with his sister Jennifer. The six longish stories contained herein are threaded together by a seemly cast of villagers, parishioners, sharp-tongued Mrs. Maguire, the vicar’s housekeeper and Leonard Graham, the effete assistant curate. In “The Shadow of Death,” a congregant’s request that Sidney investigate the suicide of her lover introduces him to Hildegard, the deceased man’s wife, for a possible romantic entanglement. “A Question of Trust” introduces Sidney to a fancy engagement dinner in London and a missing ruby ring. “First, Do No Harm” returns him to Grantchester, where a pregnancy and a mercy killing precede a marriage. In “A Matter of Time,” Sidney’s love for jazz leads him to a Soho cafe that offers scat, drugs and strangulation. A portrait of Anne Boleyn disappears in “The Lost Holbein,” and Amanda is kidnapped as she pursues it. And Lord Teversham, of Locket Hall, is murdered during a performance of Julius Caesar by one of the Roman assassins on stage in “Honourable Men.”
Only a churl could resist Sidney, whose musings on love, evil and morality, penchant for quoting snippets of poetry, preference for whiskey over the endless cups of tea he is offered, and ratiocinative success at unraveling crimes make him endearing.