Sidney Chambers and the Persistence of Love by James Runcie – Review
by Sarah Morgan
Let’s start at the very beginning, it’s a very good place to start…
Or so the famous song from The Sound of Music goes, and after reading the sixth and most recent book in James Runcie’s ‘Grantchester’ series, I’m wondering why I haven’t followed Rodgers and Hammerstein’s advice.
Those who are currently watching the ITV series may be slightly confused by the characters and events featured here. While the TV version is set firmly in the 1950s, the books have now reached the early 1970s, and Sidney is no longer a parish priest but a canon, and is happily married to his German wife Hildegard with whom he has a daughter, Anna.
As usual, the text is divided into short-ish cases rather than written as a novel, and the first involves Sidney and Anna discovering a body while walking their beloved Labrador Byron. Sidney, of course, feels it’s his duty to find out who killed this eccentric but seemingly harmless individual, a quiet-living expert on the land rather than a violent individual.
It’s perhaps the weakest tale of the collection, although one involving the disappearance of the clergyman’s own nephew runs it a close second (it feels as if that particular story is a plot device, one that will crop up again in the future).
“Will it be a case of so long, farewell to Sidney and Geordie?”
Instead, tales involving the clergyman’s best friend Amanda getting herself embroiled in a possible art fraud and the theft of an ancient religious text from under his very nose are the most compelling cases. However, it’s family affairs that dominate, with crimes taking second place to incidents of domestic upheaval and personal tragedy.Author James Runcie
image: Charlotte Runcie
I don’t want to give anything away, but Sidney’s life is about to undergo a massive upheaval, one that will leave him pondering his future both in the church and as a part-time detective.
Will it be a case of so long, farewell to Sidney and Geordie? Let’s hope not. Neither man is getting any younger, but the excitement that working together brings is essential to them both.
Other acquaintances may come and go, but you always get the impression that these men need one another, and it’s their continued relationship that makes the series work, both on and off screen.
It would also be a tragedy to be deprived of more Grantchester cases, because Runcie’s work, which is unashamedly old-fashioned, remains among the best of modern crime literature.
Just make sure you read them from the start rather than picking up the series towards the end of its run…
‘The Grantchester Mysteries: Sidney Chambers and the Persistence of Love’ by James Runcie, Bloomsbury Publishing, £7.99