cover image The Road to Grantchester

The Road to Grantchester

James Runcie. Bloomsbury, $28 (336p) ISBN 978-1-63557-058-8

Runcie’s exceptional seventh novel featuring Sidney Chambers (after 2017’s Sidney Chambers and the Persistence of Love), a prequel, opens with an extended section set during WWII. In 1943, Sidney, and his best friend, Robert Kendall, who are soldiers in a Scots Guards battalion, are serving on the Italian front. Sidney’s efforts to survive the conflict, both physically and mentally, are aided by the Rev. Nev Finnie, a battlefield chaplain who proves crucial to Sidney’s search for meaning and purpose after the war. Runcie is equally effective in portraying Sidney’s decision to become an Anglican minister and his struggles about his feelings for Robert’s sister, Amanda. Superior prose is a plus (a stranger whom Sidney passes on the street has “a face that has grown into the idea that most people will ignore him”). While Sidney has only one passing mystery to solve, fans of Runcie’s sophisticated mixing of whodunit plots with explorations of the human psyche in prior entries will relish getting a fuller picture of Sidney’s path toward a life in the church. Agent: David Godwin, David Godwin Associates (U.K.). (May)