Monday, 7 August 2017

Sidney Chambers and The Perils of the Night (The Grantchester Mysteries no.2) by James Runcie

I missed the Grantchester series on TV, mainly because it's an ITV production, and our ITV player on TV is awful. You cannot fast forward anything, so if you stopped watching something mid-way, the next time you go back to it, it starts from the beginning. So, I don't bother with it.

I knew of the Grantchester series of books, but haven't read any of them until I won Sidney Chambers and The Perils of the Night on GoodReads.
I love period mysteries, and was delighted to win a new book to add to my collection of mysteries.

Canon Sidney Chambers is a full time vicar and a part-time amateur detective. At times his sleuthing takes him away from his principal duties. He is quite endearing as a character.
He's a Cambridge graduate, and in him I recognised many of the features of boys with Oxbridge degrees, who are clever, intelligent but rather immature in practical things.
The academic rivalry is spot on.
Like many others from his background, he won't be able to function without someone doing his cooking, cleaning and washing for him.
His attitude to women is also immature. He's torn between two love interests - a posh glamorous Amanda Kendall and a German widow Hildegard. They are both patient with him, and can see his failings and shortcomings. He's truly procrastinating when it comes to love. It takes him over 6 years to come to a decision. I'm not sure why his ladies don't give up on him earlier. He's loveable, but his indecisiveness is annoying.

The book itself is a selection of six stories, which are lightly connected. It starts in mid-50s, with a Cambridge don falling to his death from a tall chapel of King's College.
I liked the description of the setting. My husband was a student at King's College, and I visited it twice, last time being to the conference Russia on the brink of the Millennium (or something along those lines).
I remember climbing the stairs of the chapel and looking over the town from the rooftops, feeling rather dizzy from the heights.
We also attended a concert in the chapel of Rachmaninov's Vespers, which was the most beautiful event. But I'm digressing from the book.
The cases vary from the don's death in very suspicious circumstances to an arson at the photographer's studio, from poisoning of Grantchester's finest spin bowler to Sidney's arrest in East Germany.
And with Sidney being a vicar, there are moral dilemmas intertwined with mysteries.
The 1950s setting of the stories is believable, Sidney's adventures are less so. If he spends so much time sleuthing, surely his duties as a vicar are suffering. The stories are unrolled at a slow pace.
I wasn't very enthusiastic about pages upon pages of cricket game or theories of physics, I confess my eyes were glazing over.

Overall, this book will appeal to those who enjoy their mysteries less violent.

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