Day 920: Sidney Chambers and the Dangers of Temptation

Cover for Sidney Chambers and the Dangers of TemptationSidney Chambers and the Dangers of Temptation is the fifth book in the series known as the Grantchester Mysteries, even though Sidney no longer lives in Grantchester. I have only previously read the first book, and much has changed in Sidney’s life since then. It is 13 years later, Sidney is married to Hildegard and has a four-year-old daughter Anna, and he is an archdeacon.

Like the first book, this Sidney Chambers book is also presented as a set of short stories, but this is a bit of a misnomer. The mysteries are contained within a story, and many of them are very slight, but the back story and the other events continue through the book as if it were a novel. Consequently, the focus has moved from solving mysteries to the discussions of various spiritual issues. I believe the Father Brown mysteries touched lightly on similar issues, but Runcie is much more heavy-handed.

In “The Dangers of Temptation,” Sidney is drawn back to Grantchester by a former parishioner, Mrs. Wilkinson. Sidney both does not like her and is attracted to her. She has asked him to do what he can to extract her teenage son Danny from a commune run by Fraser Pascoe. Sidney is unsuccessful, but then Pascoe is murdered.

In “Grantchester Meadows,” young Olivia Randall loses a valuable family necklace while she is fooling around in a meadow during a drunken party for May Week. At the same time, there is a general panic because a young man across the field is nearly trampled by cows.

Sidney’s good friend Amanda’s marital troubles come to the fore when her husband’s first wife is murdered. The murder is secondary to the plot about what will happen with Amanda’s marriage.

link to NetgalleyIn other stories, Sidney and his family travel to East Germany to vacation with Hildegard’s family, and an arson and blackmail force Sidney’s ex-curate Leonard to consider his sexuality. “The Return” has a plot suspiciously similar to a Father Brown story.

For the most part, these stories devolve into discussions of a spiritual nature. In fact, the mysteries started to seem like excuses to springboard these musings. I, for one, did not find it interesting. Further, I prefer the 50’s setting of the older mysteries to the 60’s setting.

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Day 746: Sidney Chambers and The Shadow of Death

Cover for Sidney ChambersI’ve been watching the Grantchester series on Masterpiece lately, so I decided to read the first book the series is based on. Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death is really a collection of six short stories. They are light cozies about a mild-mannered Anglican vicar who gets involved in mysteries. In fact, if you’ve been watching the TV series and have been bothered by the darker aspects of Sidney’s character, you will not find any evidence of them in these stories.

Just after World War II, Sidney Chambers is a vicar in the village of Grantchester and also lectures in nearby Cambridge. He is young and well-meaning, his biggest faults being a tendency to get distracted from his duties and a certain lack of organization.

The first story explains how he gets involved in detecting. After presiding at the funeral of one of his parishioners, Stephen Staunton, who apparently committed suicide, Sidney is approached by Pamela Morton.

Morton is certain that Staunton couldn’t have killed himself. However, she doesn’t want to go to the police with her doubts, because she is a married woman who was having an affair with Staunton. She tells Sidney that they were planning to run off together in the new year and asks him to discreetly make inquiries.

Sidney’s friend Inspector Geordie Keating is not happy to find Sidney making discreet inquiries. But Sidney is able to identify Staunton’s killer using clues about his taste in whiskey and a code in his datebook.

Of course, Sideny is surrounded by colorful characters, especially his crotchety housekeeper and his intellectual curate Leonard. If you like cozies, you will probably enjoy this series.

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