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Runcie’s Grantchester Mysteries


The descent of fall marks a slight change in reading habit. The early-morning cool calls for a cup of warm tea and a mystery. I’m currently on my William Monk #3 by Anne Perry. On the shelf are recently acquired Ruth Rendell’s Wexford series. Now the covers of James Runcie’s The Grantchester Mysteries lured me into them. A detective with a dog on leash walking toward a castle—how can I resist?

The Grantchester Mysteries is a projected series of six novels by James Runcie. Beginning in 1953, and ending in 1978, the series features the clergyman-detective, Canon Sidney Chambers. Tall, with dark brown hair, eyes the color of hazelnuts and a reassuringly gentle manner, Sidney can go where the police cannot. These are moral fables, whydunnits as much as whodunits, which combine murder with morality and humor.

Three volumes are now published: Sidney Chambers and The Shadow of Death, Sidney Chambers and The Perils of the Night, and Sidney Chambers and The Problem of Evil. They all end up in my vacation pile, saved for the annual year-end trip to Asia.

Author’s background also intrigues me. With James Runcie’s background (son of an Archbishop of Canterbury), one might have thought that when he turned to crime-writing he would opt to defy family shibboleths and write gritty, uncompromising novels about alcoholic coppers in urban Britain. But his continuing series of Grantchester mysteries featuring Canon Sidney Chambers (a linear descendant of Chesterton’s Father Brown) would have made for a perfectly relaxing read over a cup of Earl Grey for his famous father (after a hard day at the coal face struggling with gay and women priests).


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