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Sidney Chambers and the Dangers of Temptation by James Runcie

It's time for some straight talk.  I'm feeling like I'm over the Grantchester Mysteries as a book series but not necessarily as a TV series.  There was a spell earlier this year where I read a couple books in a row from this series, and Sidney's whole act about being "conflicted" about solving crimes/mysteries and always being pulled into any hint of trouble in the vicinity of Grantchester (and now Ely) worked on my nerves.  Like either solve mysteries or don't, either prioritize your family over your mystery solving or don't, but this fretting and obsessing over this work/family/mystery solving balance is getting old.  Well, guess what!  It seems Sidney heard and heeded my advice.  The fretting/obsessing over his mystery solving and whether or not he should be doing it is at a minimum in this installment of the Grantchester Mysteries.

It's the late 1960's in Sidney Chambers and the Dangers of Temptation by James Runcie, and this is the most recent installment of the series.  I'm not sure when or if there will be another installment.  And as I hinted at earlier in this post, when this book came in, I was reluctant to start it because I just wasn't interested.  But once I started reading it, the book pretty much sucked me in.  There are a couple stories that I felt were pointless--there was very little mystery and what mystery existed wasn't really resolved.  Please read on for my thoughts on the stories contained in this installment.

Sidney is enlisted by a former parishioner to extricate her son from a local cult in the Grantchester countryside.  When the cult leader turns up decapitated in a meadow in Grantchester, Sidney must solve a murder in which it seems the main witnesses, persons of interest, and suspects are obfuscating the facts.  I mean, seriously.  Murder suspects lying.  What else is new.  While Sidney does solve this case, it felt an awful lot like the solution to whodunit was sudden if not entirely unexpected or surprising.

Following a cow stampede that tramples a university student, Helena Randall's sister is divested of a priceless family heirloom that Sidney is, of course, enlisted to track down.  This mystery features a lot of talking to witnesses and participants involved in the cow stampede and such in order to suss out the culprit.  Helena's sister is a character with an inflated sense of self value and a questionable perception about how her peers of the opposite sex feel about her.

Amanda's husband's ex-wife returns to destroy Amanda's marriage irreparably.  Unfortunately the woman doesn't get to enjoy her contribution to the demise of her rival's marriage because the ex-wife turns up floating in a quarry lake.  Amanda's husband is the prime suspect in the woman's death, and Sidney must ascertain whether the death was homicide or suicide, what secrets the husband and/or ex-wife were keeping, and what has been troubling Amanda.  I feel bad for how things turn out for Amanda because it seems like her marriage and its dissolution affects an irreversible, negative impact on Amanda's self-confidence and how she relates to London society.  It dims her once bright, bold spirit.  And that's unfortunate.

Mrs. Maguire's long MIA husband suddenly pops back into her life.  Sidney worries the man has ulterior motives in his sudden reappearance and re-entrance into his wife's life.  While it's implied that there's some shadiness on the part of the husband, the damage he can do is limited by the man's rapidly declining health.  And ultimately the issue is resolved by the man's shuffle off this mortal coil.

Sidney's family vacation in East Germany is marred by the suspicious death of their host in a motorbike accident.  Frustratingly the police insist it was indeed an accident. And even more frustratingly the deceased man's friends and wife appear united in a conspiracy of silence to cover up the crime at the very least while at worst they may have colluded in bringing about the man's death.  Meanwhile, Sidney's mother-in-law is rude.  She laments her daughter's marriage to Sidney (and repeatedly refers to him as 'nosy' in German; which he is, but it's still rude) because she had hoped Hildegard would marry a childhood friend (the aforementioned suspiciously deceased man), who was a loudmouth, abusive husband/father and who still carries a torch for Hildegard.  I'd say that Hildegard sure dodged a bullet by not marrying that guy.

An arson case back in Grantchester reveals the disturbing blackmail of a dear friend.  To resolve the issue Sidney, Geordie, Amanda, and Helena must all band together to help Leonard, the target of the blackmailer.  Unfortunately Leonard's once promising future with the Church of England becomes a casualty by this story's end.  I don't want to say too much more than this other than this made me sad for Leonard because he didn't deserve this.


--Reviewed by Ms. Angie




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