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The Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death: The Grantchester Mysteries Paperback – April 24, 2012

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The Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death: The Grantchester Mysteries + Sidney Chambers and the Perils of the Night (Grantchester) + Sidney Chambers and the Problem of Evil (Grantchester)
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Product Details

  • Series: Grantchester
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA (April 24, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1608198561
  • ISBN-13: 978-1608198566
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #81,066 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


While the diminutive priest detective created by G. K. Chesterton led the way, Sidney Chambers is set fair to be a worthy successor ... this is quite an achievement -- Barry Turner Daily Mail Each tale is beautifully crafted and surprising. I hope for many more volumes -- A.N. Wilson Spectator A charmingly effective tale of detection ... Runcie's fine crime debut evokes oodles of churchy village atmosphere, circa 1953, [and] provides a satisfyingly old fashioned read The Times No detective since Father Brown has been more engaging than Canon Sidney Chambers. Perfect company in bed Salley Vickers, author of Miss Garnett's Angel The coziest of cozy murder mysteries ... These stories present a consistently charming and occasionally cutting commentary on "a postwar landscape full of industry, promise and concrete" New York Times Book Review Chambers turns out to be a winning clergyman-sleuth, and Runcie's literary authority is repeatedly demonstrated in the construction of his elegant tales ... there is no denying the winning charm of these artfully fashioned mysteries -- Barry Forshaw Independent Inspector Morse would appear to have a rival -- Mary Crockett Scotland on Sunday The clerical milieu is well rendered as an affectionate eye is cast over post-war England - a perfect accompaniment to a sunny afternoon, a hammock and a glass of Pimm's Guardian Alexander McCall Smith's Mma Ramotswe is going to have to look to her laurels! Sidney Chambers's adventures are thoroughly captivating and engaging. I loved the character and I loved the highly evocative period feel and dialogue Amanda Craig, author of Love in Idleness An undiluted pleasure Scotsman What a bloody fantastic thing ... this could only be improved by finding a winning Euromillions ticket tucked in the pages Rev Richard Coles Beautifully crafted . Perfectly placed to become comfort viewing on Sunday evenings, filling those Rumpole- and Morse-sized gaps in our lives. But enjoy them as literature first Reader's Digest, Books of Christmas Only a churl could resist Sidney, whose musings on love, evil and morality, penchant for quoting snippets of poetry, preference for whiskey over the endless cups of tea he is offered, and ratiocinative success at unraveling crimes make him endearing Kirkus --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

James Runcie is the son of the former archbishop of Canterbury, the director of the Bath Literature Festival, and the author of four novels: The Discovery of Chocolate, The Colour of Heaven, Canvey Island, and East Fortune. He is also an award-winning filmmaker and theater director and has scripted several films for BBC. He directed a documentary following a year in the life of J. K. Rowling. Runcie lives in Edinburgh with his wife and two daughters.

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Customer Reviews

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Thank you to Net Galley and Bloomsbury for allowing me to read and review this wonderful book.
Apparently this is the first in a planned series of six novels featuring the title character so I'll be looking for this and other Sidney Chambers books in the future!
Mary Lavers
The author has written a book with good character development, an interesting story line, and .likable main character.
Ann L. Aron

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By TChris TOP 100 REVIEWER on April 30, 2012
Format: Paperback
Sidney Chambers is an unlikely detective. As the vicar of the Church of St. Andrew and St. Mary in Grantshire, he is more comfortable hearing confessions than seeking them out, but crime seems to have a way of chasing him. The first volume in a projected series of six collectively known as "The Grantchester Mysteries," Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death is really a series of connected stories, each with its own title, rather than a typical novel. Recurring characters include Sidney's good friend Inspector Keating, his sister Jennifer, the close female friend, Amanda Kendall, with whom he dances around the topic of romance, his surly housekeeper and his pious curate. The stories are these:

"The Shadow of Death" - Shortly after Sidney presides over Stephen Staunton's funeral following Staunton's suicide in 1953, Pamela Morton takes Sidney aside and declares her belief that Staunton, with whom she had been having an affair, had been murdered. All the while wondering why he's getting involved, Chambers chats with various suspects. Along the way Chambers manages to tipple a bit of whiskey despite everyone's assumption that he would prefer sherry. This proves to be fortuitous as whiskey furnishes the first significant clue to the best mystery in the book.

"A Question of Trust" - An engagement ring presented at a New Year's Eve dinner party disappears. The mystery makes for pleasant but unexciting reading.

"First, Do No Harm" - A woman promises her mother that she will not marry while her mother is still alive. When the mother's death coincides with the woman's engagement, Sidney suspects foul play while finding time to ponder the ethics of euthanasia. There is very little mystery in this one.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By bookworm1858 VINE VOICE on May 6, 2012
Format: Paperback
I like finding new detectives in mystery stories and the setting for this one, early 1950s, sounded pleasingly different. Our detective, as you might have surmised from the title, is Sidney Chambers, vicar of Grantchester, the quiet English village. Through the short stories in this collection, Sidney is induced to become involved in investigating several mysterious crimes. He is friendly with an inspector and his position in the church lends some authority to his actions while rendering his investigations relatively unobtrusive to the wrongdoer.

Despite the nature of the crimes (the violence of several murders and two thieveries), this is a very quiet book. This is perfect for those of us who like cozies, who don't necessarily want violence in their reading material but may not work for people who want suspense. I'll admit that there were times when it seemed too slow but I enjoyed the leisurely pace. It seems fitting for the time and place, where rationing is only finally starting to end, where televisions have yet to grace practically every household. We also get insight into Sidney's spiritual and personal life, from the way he feels about his preaching to potential wife material.

The quality of the stories varies. I really liked the story of the missing engagement ring while I found the one about the missing portrait to be quite sickening and much darker than the other stories. Although each mystery provides the framing and ostensible purpose for the story, it does not always come across as the most important element. Sidney's romantic connections and his life in the church sometimes overshadow his investigations, drawing my attention and sympathy.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By SLC on May 5, 2012
Format: Paperback
I've been a mystery reader for decades and found this book to be a pleasant change of pace, which I couldn't put down; finished in 1.5 days. The main character (a Church of England Canon) is multifaceted and interesting - accuracy likely due to author's father being an Archbishop of Canterbury. The writing style was refreshing and the story plots (8 separate stories) interesting. Hope more to come soon!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Miss Ivonne on January 4, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Reading "Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death," the first in a proposed series of six mystery books, was an unadulterated pleasure. Author James Runcie crafts such apt descriptions of characters and their observations that I found myself highlighting passage after passage in my Kindle Edition of the book. For example, in reference to the coroner, Derek Jarvis, Runcie writes: "What he lacked in charm he disguised with efficiency." What a precise picture that paints! At a confession of adultery and some other chicanery, Anglican priest Sidney Chambers ponders, "What on earth was he supposed to do about this? It was none of his business; but then he remembered that, as a priest, everything was his business." And Chambers' housekeeper, the garrulous Mrs. Maguire explained that, in 1944, "her husband Ronnie had disappeared 'for no good reason' in the Second [World War]. She explained at length that her sister Gladys, a spiritualist, had been unable to contact Ronnie so he couldn't be dead and she was waiting for his return...." Who could then be surprised when someone so sure of herself wages an unrelenting war against Chambers' new puppy -- ever "that dog"?

Some examples of other quotes: "You won't mention my name?' 'Of course not,' Sidney answered, already worrying how long he could keep this secret." I laughed out loud at this advice from the police inspector: "Well, you need to be careful, Sidney. You know how desperate the rich can be.... Well, if you don't know now, then you will soon enough." And from the assertive Mrs. Maguire to Chambers' assistant: "Grantchester may look like a typical English village, Reverend Graham, but I am telling you now that, in reality, it is a nest of perfidious vipers." What delicious hyperbole!
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