Ayo Onatade is an avid reader of crime and mystery fiction. She has been writing reviews, interviews and articles on the subject for the last 12 years; with an eclectic taste from historical to hardboiled, short stories and noir films
Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death is the first in a series of novels (otherwise known as the Grantchester Mysteries) by the son of the former Archbishop of Canterbury. It is the first volume in a projected series of six.
At first look, Sidney Chambers is not your usual detective. A vicar of the Church of St. Andrew and St. Mary in Grantchester a quaint English village you would have thought that he would be spending his time tending to his flock and hearing their confession. However, this is not the case and he finds himself investigating a series of crimes that take place.
The novel is not a straightforward one. In fact, there are a number of interconnecting novelettes where they are not only linked together as stories but the characters from one bleed into another. Despite the nature of the crimes that take place this is not a violent novel. In fact, some readers might consider it to be a tad too cosy. I would like to suggest that this is far from the case. The word whimsical comes to mind with this novel. However, there is also a sense of darkness as well which cannot be ignored. Underlying all of this is the possible romance between the vicar and the German widow of the first case that he investigates.
Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death is a wonderful book and one can easily reference G K Chesterton’s Father Brown series and possibly Miss Marple as well from it.
Runcie has certainly used his insider knowledge of the church to great effect in this novel and it has been done with a lightness of touch, which is a delight. There is a sense of place that makes you think of hot summer days, cricket, and reading this book lying in a hammock. Despite my preference for hardboiled noir, I for one am looking forward to reading the rest of this series. Sidney Chambers is an unforgettable character that I look forward to reading more of!