Monday, 18 February 2013

Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death - James Runcie

Who doesn't love a good mystery series? I heard that Sidney Chambers harked back slightly to Agatha Christie and I adore her so it seemed like a good idea to check this out.

Canon Sidney Chambers is a young priest in Cambridge during the fifties. He enjoys his quite life and likes being able to help people. However, he always seems to find himself dragged into strange mysteries and pretty soon he's more detective than priest.

One thing that was very interesting about this book that instead of one large mystery, this book actually contains six short ones. At first I didn't think that I liked this as it gave less time for the plot to develop but actually it turned out to be a very interesting narrative device. Having the short mysteries allows the characters to develop over a course of time, introducing and killing off different characters and making you care about people that seemed to only be a background idea in other stories.

Sidney is a very likable protagonist, very sympathetic and good-natured, always kind of wishing he wasn't involved but finding himself in the middle of things anyway. He's given a dog at one point and watching him slowly grow to love that dog is heartwarming. There's even a bit of a love triangle going on which is very fun, especially since poor mild-mannered Sidney is in the middle of it.

One thing that is very heartening about this series is that it's easy to see it going on for a long time. The short stories are just long enough to tell a good story while also allowing for a bit of character development. Since it's also set in England in the fifties, it allows for some fun reconstruction of history. Also, it takes a toll when you remember that the automatic punishment for murder back then was execution. The characters acknowledge this and it definitely adds to the atmosphere of the novel.

I really enjoyed Sidney Chambers and am excited to know that another book will be out in the coming year. I'll definitely be picking it up and you should, too!

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