Runcie, James - 'Sidney Chambers and the Problem of Evil'
This remarkable set of four longer stories is about the adventures of the Vicar of Grantchester, Canon Sidney Chambers who decided to become a priest after serving as an officer in the Second World War with some distinction and being awarded a Military Cross for his bravery under fire. Sidney is a charming forty-two-year-old newly married man with a reassuringly gentle manner. He has settled into married life with his German bride Hildegard but things don't stay quiet for very long.
It is now early 1963 and Sidney has been a clergyman for some ten years and he soon attempts to stop a serial killer who has a grievance against the clergy; investigates the disappearance of a famous painting after a distracting display of nudity by a French girl in an art gallery; uncovers the fact that an 'accidental' drowning on a film shoot may not have been so accidental after all and discovers the reasons behind the theft of a baby from a hospital in the run up to Christmas 1963.
In the meantime, Sidney wrestles with the problems of evil, attempts to fulfil the demands of Dickens, his faithful Labrador and contemplates, as always, the nature of love. There are much philosophical ramblings also to digest.
Essentially this book is another in the series of the adventures in crime sleuthing by an Anglican minister similar in whimsical style to that of the adventures of Father Brown. I thought also that it was reminiscent of the Margery Allingham stories as the tales are all very English and of the 'cosy' variety. Sidney still meets his detective friend Inspector Keating for a pint or two in a local pub every Tuesday and they discuss the specifics of their various cases and life in general.
I had the pleasure of reading his first book SIDNEY CHAMBERS AND THE SHADOW OF DEATH published in May 2012, but to my chagrin I missed the second which I must look out for. Although these books should perhaps be read sequentially they are all fully explained so there is really no reason to not start with this one.
The very gifted author is the artistic Director of the Bath Literature Festival and has written six other books. He is also an award winning film-maker and is also of course the son of a former Archbishop of Canterbury. This book is the third of an anticipated six detective novels spanning thirty years of British history from 1953 to 1981 - featuring Sidney Chambers. I enjoyed it tremendously as the author writes with great skill and the plotting and historical research made it very believable; a real page turner. I look forward to reading the rest of the series. Well recommended.
The 'Grantchester Mysteries' is soon to be a major six-part series for ITV.
Terry Halligan, England