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Sister Mary Murderous

Favorite genres are traditional mystery, police procedurals, espionage, Eurocrime, literary fiction and nonfiction history, especially WW2 and Cold War.  I write about crime fiction at Read Me Deadly (www.readmedeadly.com)

Sidney Chambers and the Perils of the Night - James Runcie This is a collection of six short stories, each of which stands on its own, though there are some connections between them, and some characters are present in each story. The protagonist is, of course, Sidney Chambers, a Church of England canon in Grantchester, a bucolic village close to Cambridge University. Sidney's sideline is criminal investigation, via his friendship with Cambridgeshire policeman Geordie Keating.

Sidney is a mild-mannered man, but there is some spice to his life. He has two women in his life: Amanda, his longtime close friend, and Hildegarde, the German widow who he met in the first volume in this series, when her husband was murdered. In this volume, the stories range from the murder of a Muslim grocer to a close shave for Sidney when he visits Hildegarde in Germany just as the Iron Curtain is ringing down.

Author James Runcie is the son of Robert Runcie, the Archbishop of Canterbury in the 1980s, so he comes by his interest in churchmen honestly. In the website about the Sidney Chambers series, he writes that he plans to have six novels in the series, beginning in 1953 and ending in 1978, writing about a period in which there were vast changes in English society.

Runcie's strong suit is his ability to evoke the feel of the village and the university in the 1950s, so soon after the war's end. The book should be a rewarding experience for those who reading for atmosphere and storytelling. The avid mystery reader may be less pleased, because the crimes tend to be solved in a burst of exposition. There isn't the seeding of clues that allows the careful reader to figure out the whodunnit.

Note about the audiobook: Avoid the audiobook! The reader, Peter Wickham, is terrible at women's voices. In particular, he makes Amanda sound like a little old woman, when she's supposed to be a wealthy young society woman.