Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Sidney Chambers and The Shadow of Death (2012)

Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death. James Runcie. 2012. Bloomsbury. 400 pages. (Grantchester Mysteries Series #1)

Canon Sidney Chambers stars in six cozy-mystery novellas set in Britain around 1953-1954. There are six mysteries to be solved; some mysteries include a dead body, others do not: in some it's a case of jewelry theft or kidnapping. Though there are six separate mysteries to be solved, there are a handful of characters whose lives we follow from story to story. Readers get to know the people closest to Chambers, and we also get to see into his personal life. There are two women that intrigue him: the first the widow woman introduced in the first story; the second is a glamorous, sparkly woman introduced in the second story. Amanda, the second woman, gives Sidney a Labrador--a dog he names Dickens.

For readers who enjoy cozy mysteries, cozy historical novels with plenty of detail and well-drawn characters, Sidney Chambers and The Shadow of Death is well worth considering. I didn't love all six stories. But I can easily say that I LOVED about three or four of them. The stories are all different from one another. It was easy to love Sidney Chambers.

My favorite stories were "The Shadow of Death," "A Question of Trust," and "A Matter of Time."

"The Shadow of Death"
Canon Sidney Chambers had never intended to become a detective. Indeed, it came about quite by chance, after a funeral, when a handsome woman of indeterminate age voiced her suspicion that the recent death of a Cambridge solicitor was not suicide, as had been widely reported, but murder. (1)
"A Question of Trust"
It was the afternoon of Thursday 31 December 1953, and a light snow that refused to settle drifted across the towns and fields of Hertfordshire. Sidney was tired, but contented, after the exertions of Christmas and was on the train to London. He had seen the festival season through with a careful balance of geniality and theology and he was looking forward to a few days off with his family and friends. (82)
"First, Do No Harm"
One of the clerical undertakings that Sidney least enjoyed was the abstinence of Lent. The rejection of alcohol between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday had always been a tradition among the clergy of Cambridge but Sidney noticed that it neither improved their spirituality nor their patience. In fact, it made some of them positively murderous. (148)
"A Matter of Time"
It was the seventh of May 1954 and Sidney had, at last, perfected the art of boiling an egg. (218)

"The Lost Holbein"
Locket Hall, with its grand E-shaped exterior of Ham Hill stone and mullioned windows, had been built at the beginning of the sixteenth century and was one of the finest stately homes in the vicinity of Cambridge. (282)
"Honorable Men"
Sidney was talking to himself again. 'Vanity, vanity, all is vanity, saith the Preacher,' he muttered as he walked towards the Arts Theatre for the first rehearsal of a modern-dress production of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. (331)
The second novel in the series, Sidney Chambers and The Perils of The Night, will be released in May 2013.

Read Sidney Chambers and The Shadow of Death
  • If you love mysteries
  • If you love cozy mysteries
  • If you love historical fiction set in Britain (1950s)
  • If you enjoy character-driven novels
  • If you like novellas
© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Amy Yingling 12:23 PM  

Becky I will have to check those out for the cozy mystery challenge I am participating in, thanks for a great suggestion!
Amy Yingling
The Crafty Book Nerd

Chris Howard 2:38 AM  

Oooh, this sounds pretty good and I LOVE that cover :D Has a very old book feel to it :)

samantha.1020 8:31 AM  

This sounds like a really interesting read. Thanks for sharing as I might have to pick this one up at some point :)

Elizabeth Tierney 4:56 PM  

I read this book last year and I agree with all your comments. Don't you think it's interesting that within one year three authors (GM Maillet, CC Benison, and James Runcie) would publish books with priests as their main characters??

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