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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

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