Skip to main content

Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death by James Runcie

Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death by James Runcie is the first of the book series from which the British TV series, Grantchester is adapted.  Both major and minor details of characters, relationships, and mysteries change in the adaptation from book to screen.  Having watched the series before reading this book, I can say that both book and TV show are equally engrossing.

Shadow of Death is not a novel, instead it's a collection of short stories that take place successively over the course of a year that follows Sidney Chambers, the bachelor vicar of the Anglican parish in Grantchester near Cambridge in England; these particular stories are set in 1953 and 1954.  In the book Inspector Keating and Chambers are already friends and acquaintances when Chambers is called upon by a mourner who believes that the suicide of their loved one was not a suicide at all.  Unfortunately once Chambers begins meddling in solving mysteries and crimes, these matters encroach upon more and more of his time.  By the last tale it's near to impossible for Chambers to resist being caught up in the most recent mystery.

Throughout this first set of tales we meet some of Chambers' friends, among them, Amanda Kendall, his sister's room mate, upon whom he has a crush and with whom he develops a rather close friendship.  We also meet Chambers' parents and his sister and brother as well as some parishioners.  A matter that becomes a recurring theme throughout the stories is the question of when and with whom Chambers will finally settle and marry.  At first he hopes this person might be Amanda, but it becomes increasingly clear that these two are not a very good match and that they are much better as friends.

I think you can probably guess some of the reasons that I like this series since my love of all things British period drama and mystery has been well documented on this blog.  I know we're always supposed to say the book is better than its adaptation, and that's usually always the case.  But having read the book after watching the TV series, I think each are equally as good in their own ways.  I'll definitely read the other books in the series, and I'm looking forward to watching the second series of Grantchester whenever that may air.

Two random thoughts I have:

Mrs. Maguire has no redeeming qualities in the stories as she does in the TV series.  None.  My dislike for her increases with every sentence of dialogue she has in the stories.

Amanda is rather more selfish and oblivious in the stories than she is in the TV series.  She knows she and Sidney are not a good match and is interested only in his friendship, yet she thinks nothing of running him out to London to "tell him something of importance" that turns out to be not really important enough to take a train to London in the middle of the day while he still has church work and a mystery to solve.  This is just one example of how she insists on monopolizing his time and attention.  What will she do when he marries someone who isn't her?

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie


Popular posts from this blog

Broken by Karin Slaughter

Before I begin the formal review there are a few things I need to get off my chest in the wake of finishing this book; I'll do so without giving away too many (or any) spoilers.
The OUTRAGE!: the identity of Detective Lena Adams' new beau; the low depths to which Grant County's interim chief has sunk and brought the police force down with him; agent Will Trent's wife, Angie's, sixth sense/nasty habit of reappearing in his life just when he's slipping away from her. Thank God for small miracles though because while Angie was certainly referred to during the book, the broad didn't make an appearance. One sign that I've become way too invested in these characters is that I'd like to employ John Connolly's odd pair of assassins, Louis and Angel, to contract out a hit on Angie; do you think Karin Slaughter and John Connolly could work out a special cross over?
Hallelujah: Dr. Sara Linton and agent Will Trent are both back. There is no hallelujah for…

Crow Lake by Mary Lawson

When the end came, it seemed to do so completely out of the blue, and it wasn't until long afterward that I was able to see that there was a chain of events leading up to it. Some of those events had nothing to do with us, the Morrisons, but were solely the concern of the Pyes, who lived on a farm about a mile away and were our nearest neighbors." from page seven
I must confess that it took me longer than it really needed to in order to finish the novel Crow Lake by Mary Lawson. The entire story is building up to the big catastrophe that forever destroys all the hopes and dreams the Morrison clan ever dared to hope and dream for its future. In the eyes of the narrator, it is even worse than the tragedy of the car crash that claimed both parents' lives one evening on the heels of some good news the family has received and celebrated. Now you can see why I dreaded getting to the end of a book that drips in foreboding like nobody's business. What can be a worse tra…

In The Woods by Tana French

"What I warn you to remember is that I am a detective. Our relationship with the truth is fundamental, but cracked, refracting confusingly like fragmented glass. It is the core of our careers, the endgame of every move we make, and we pursue it with strategies painstakingly constructed of lies ... and every variation on deception. The truth is the most desirable woman in the world and we are the most jealous lovers, reflexively denying anyone else the slightest glimpse of her. We betray her routinely ... This is my job ... What I am telling you, before you begin my story, is this--two things: I crave truth. And I lie." opening lines of In The Woods chapter 1, pages 3-4
In The Woods by Tana French, an Irish writer, is an extremely well-written and well-crafted mystery novel. The downside is that this is French's debut novel, and her website (located at does not offer any insi…