Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death: The Grantchester Mysteries

James Runcie, Author
James Runcie. Bloomsbury, $16 trade paper (448p) ISBN 978-1-60819-856-6
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Runcie (Canvey Island) launches a promising new clerical series with this collection of interlocking short whodunits featuring a latter-day Father Brown, Canon Sidney Chambers. In the first selection, set in 1953, the Anglican minister presides over the funeral of a suicide, Stephen Staunton. When Pamela Morton, whose husband was Staunton’s law partner and who believes Staunton was murdered, seeks Chambers out, Chambers agrees to ask questions informally, despite the skepticism of a friend on the force. His success in resolving Mrs. Morton’s concerns proves to be just the starting point as an amateur sleuth. In subsequent chapters, he investigates a jewel theft, suspicions that a doctor is performing euthanasia, and a strangulation in a jazz club. The last case, “Honourable Men,” is the strongest after the opening mystery, with a sophisticated plot centering on the murder of the actor playing Julius Caesar during a staging of the assassination scene from Shakespeare’s play. That Runcie is the son of former archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie lends biographical interest. Agent: David Godwin, David Godwin Associates. (May)
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