Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death by James Runcie (2013)
Regular readers of this genre of fiction will know that private detectives come in many shapes and sizes – think Poirot, Mma Ramotswe, Lord Peter Wimsey – but James Runcie has created another rather unusual sleuth in the unlikely shape of the very tall, slender (and young!) Canon Sidney Chambers. His work, as Vicar of Grantchester, and visiting fellow at Corpus Christi, should be enough to keep him fully occupied, but he finds himself unwillingly drawn into investigations of several unexpected crimes.
Though not a demanding read, the ingenious contrivance of the plots is always entertaining, and the central character very sympathetically drawn. Rather scant attention is paid to his parochial life and responsibilities, but the ambiance of 1950’s Cambridge and London is clearly evoked.
This novel is the first in a projected series of six books, so one may well expect that some of the characters met here will reappear throughout Canon Chambers’ further investigative exploits as he moves into later decades. Don’t expect the wit and elegance of Dorothy Sayers, or the psychological insight of P.D.James, but if you are looking for a relaxing, enjoyable and at times intriguing amateur detective novel, then SHADOW OF DEATH is for you.
Reviewed by Sonia Woolley
As Book of the Month for December it is just £6.50 and POST FREE until 31st December 2013.