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Sidney Chambers and the Perils of the Night by James Runcie

Sidney Chambers and the Perils of the Night is the second novel in the Grantchester Mysteries written by James Runcie.  It's also a British TV series that airs on PBS, the second season of which aired earlier this year.  Although I haven't yet seen the second series, I can say that as far as the characters' lives and timeline that the two have diverged.

The second novel's timeline is hard to follow because it picks up in 1955, the year after the close of the first novel.  However, Perils of the Night covers over five years (!) concluding literally on the eve of the construction of the Berlin Wall.  The first novel was reviewed here on the blog.  In this installation Sidney is caught up in many mysteries and adventures, two of which are connected to his alma mater University of Cambridge.

In 1955 when a research fellow falls to his death in the middle of a forbidden midnight climb on King's College Chapel towers, Sidney is enlisted to ascertain that it was in fact an accident and not something more sinister.  However, Sidney is unwittingly drawn in to the gray world of spy craft.  Admittedly this story was hard to follow because it felt as if there were gaps left in the narrative regarding support for the conclusions to which Sidney jumps in his resolution of the case.

Two years later Sidney is drawn into an arson investigation in Grantchester.  Unfortunately his reputation takes a bit of a hit due to some unsavory research for the case.  Ultimately this story's resolution is ambiguous.  The next year when a junior bursar has a heart attack and drowns in the bathtub of his rooms both Sidney and his long distance paramour, Hildegard, who is visiting, are drawn into the mystery.  Throughout the course of this story it's revealed that the couple has more in common than a love of music, such as a nose for a mystery and a desire to pursue truth and justice.

In the final mysteries Sidney must work out whodunit and how in the poisoning of Grantchester's star cricketer and uncover the duplicity of a dear friend's fiance before the marriage is allowed to proceed (and possibly end in tragedy; I'd say Amanda dodged more of a bullet than she realizes).  In the last mystery Sidney is literally caught up in the intrigue and danger surrounding the construction of the Berlin Wall.

This novel's stories literally span years and the entirety of the long distance courtship of Sidney and Hildegard.  A recurring theme throughout this collection of stories is the repeated urgings of random characters for Sidney to get a wife already.  I mean, I don't know why it's taking him so long to take that leap, but at least he finally does.  In this world the characters are as engrossing as the mysteries.  And I highly recommend you pick up this book the next time you're at the library.

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie


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