Sidney Chambers and The Dangers of Temptation: The Grantchester Mysteries #5 by James Runcie

Sidney Chambers and The Dangers of Temptation: The Grantchester Mysteries #5 by James Runcie

I’m a huge Masterpiece fan, in fact, I have PBS on the television more than any other station on any given day. A couple of years ago, I started watching  Grantchester, a mystery series set just outside of Cambridge with a jazz-loving, hard drinking, ex-military, Anglican vicar with a best friend who just happens to be a Detective Inspector.  Then I had the opportunity to read a book from The Grantchester Mysteries series by James Runcie.  Please read on for my review of

Sidney Chambers and The Dangers of Temptation

The first I’ve read of this series, even with my familiarity with the Grantchester series on PBS, this is a collection of six short stories of about 50 pages where the detecting (now) Archdeacon Sidney Chambers works his magic to find the perpetrators, with or without the companionship of Inspector Geordie Keating.  While these aren’t hard-biting stories, full of dames and shootouts, the thoughtful progression as the mystery unfolds combines with the personal asides and struggles faced by Sidney as he, in this collection, faces temptations in all its forms.

What Runcie seems to accomplish best in this series is present characters that feel wholly of their time and circumstance, but are not so set in their own ways, beliefs or even prejudices as to be static.  Using an Anglican Archdeacon is a daring move: making him return frequently to his love for Bechet, his German-born wife, a long-standing friendship that is laden with unrequited love with Amanda and even his sister’s unconventional relationship with a jazz musician of color just add to those layers.  No one is perfect here, everyone is trying to navigate their way through life, the changes and the joys: most especially Sidney.  A bit of a little lost boy, even now with his years in the collar and his rise to prominence in the church.

From greed to lust through pride and prejudice, each character has their moment to present and tackle the issues that pop up in an ordinary life, and choices made in those moments are often fraught with self-doubt and uncertainty.  One could expect these stories to bring a certain level of ‘preachiness’ with them, yet Runcie manages to present an entirely humanist set of values, always looking to do and be the best in the moment. Prose is poetic and lyrical, with details and descriptions presented with precision, providing imagery, emotion and a solid understanding of the moment.

A lovely collection of short stories, sure to please fans of this series, intriguing to those of us who only know the Masterpiece version of these characters, and sure to bring in new fans to both.

Sidney Chambers and The Dangers of Temptation: The Grantchester Mysteries #5 by James Runcie

Title: Sidney Chambers and The Dangers of Temptation
Author: James Runcie
Series: The Grantchester Mysteries #5
Genre: Contemporary Mystery
Published by: Bloomsbury USA
ISBN: 1632865661
Published on: 14 June, 2016
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Pages: 336
Rated: five-stars
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It's the summer of love in late 1960s England. Basil D'Oliveira has just been dropped from the English cricket team before for a test series in apartheid South Africa; the war in Biafra dominates the news; and the Apollo 11 astronauts are preparing to land on the moon. In the midst of all this change, Sidney Chambers, now Archdeacon of Ely Cathedral, is still up to his amateur sleuthing investigations.

A bewitching divorcee enlists Sidney's help in convincing her son to leave a hippie commune; at a soiree on Grantchester Meadows during May Week celebrations, a student is divested of a family heirloom; Amanda's marriage runs into trouble; Sidney and Hildegard holiday behind the Iron Curtain; Mrs Maguire's husband returns from the dead and an arson attack in Cambridge leads Sidney to uncover a cruel case of blackmail involving his former curate.

In the rare gaps between church and crime, Sidney struggles with a persistent case of toothache, has his first flutter at the Newmarket races and witnesses the creation of a classic rock song.

Charming, witty, intelligent, and filled with a strong sense of compassion, here are six new stories guaranteed to satisfy and delight this clerical detective's many fans.

See The Grantchester Mysteries Series on GoodReads

A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.


About James Runcie

James Runcie is a writer, director and literary curator. He is the author of The Grantchester Mysteries, Visiting Professor at Bath Spa University, and the Commissioning Editor for Arts on BBC Radio 4.

He was born in 1959, educated at Marlborough College, Cambridge University and Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. He was a founding member of The Late Show, and made documentary films for the BBC for fifteen years. He then went freelance to make programmes for Channel 4 and ITV. He was Artistic Director of the Bath Literature Festival from 2010-2013, and Head of Literature at the Southbank Centre in London from 2013-2015.

James Runcie lives in Edinburgh and London.