Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death
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Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death (The Grantchester Mysteries #1)

3.4 of 5 stars 3.40  ·  rating details  ·  459 ratings  ·  121 reviews
Sidney Chambers, the Vicar of Grantchester and Honorary Canon of Ely Cathedral, is a thirty-twoyear old bachelor. Tall, with dark brown hair, eyes the colour of hazelnuts anda reassuringly gentle manner, Sidney is an unconventional clergyman and can gowhere the police cannot.In "TheGrantchester Mysteries," Sidney, together with his roguish friend Inspector Horatio'Harry' K...more
ebook, 256 pages
Published April 1st 2012 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
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Wow. What am I missing? I love the books that so many people lump with this one, but I found Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death to be unrewarding, stilted, shallow, stiff, and dry. I pre-ordered it in paperback after Karen of cornflowerbooks blog recommended it, and I was confident that I'd love it as I have loved the Flavia de Luce and Mma Ramotswe series--but oh! I was sooooooooooo wrong. Many people admit that the plot isn't compelling but then say what a great character Sidney is, a sta...more
Reviewed for Library Journal, starred review:

There is something very appealing about a man of the cloth playing at detective; the convergence of the sacred with the evils of the modern world can make for delightful mystery reading. Novelist Runcie (The Discovery of Chocolate; Canvey Island), who just happens to be the son of the former archbishop of Canterbury, has bestowed upon us a new and delightful clerical detective. Canon Sidney Chambers is a relatively young vicar with a passion for jazz...more
When I picked this book up I didn't realise that it's actually a collection of mini-mysteries rather than a one mystery novel. Some of the cases were more intriguing than others, as I couldn't help but feel that some of the crimes were wrapped up just a little bit too neatly. The eponymous hero is a likeable enough chap, and the period setting (this novel starts after WWII) adds interest, but it was a bit mild-mannered and dull for my tastes. I would have to be in the mood for something a bit bl...more
Beatnik  Mary
In response to Goodreads' new user policy, I have decided to no longer post reviews on this site. Instead you can read my review on my blog, Cozy Little Book Journal, or follow the link above.
Originally posted here!

Contrary to what I first expected, this book does not contain a singular plot. It is actually a collection of six cases, namely: The Shadow of Death; A Question of Trust; First, Do No Harm; A Matter of Time; The Lost Holbein, and; Honourable Men. They are arranged chronologically, and though some characters in the first case show up in the succeeding cases as well, you wouldn’t be handicapped if you decide to skip cases. Whichever suits your fancy, I suppose.

I liked this...more
Jenn Ravey
* I received an egalley of this book from the publisher Bloomsbury USA via NetGalley.

I really love when the cover of a book fits it so perfectly, and I'd have to say that James Runcie's Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death does just that. It's so idyllic and peaceful - blue skies with puffy clouds, green grass, and the beautiful church in the background...but with a dark shadow encroaching.

Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death is a series of five longer stories, about 100 pages each, set in...more
I liked the idea of a 1950s sleuthing vicar, I love older detective stories, and having heard James Runcie speak once or twice I had high hopes that the book would be entertaining and witty, like its author. Unfortunately, it wasn't.

I found the characterization poor - all of the characters, including the hero Sidney Chambers, seemed one-dimensional. I found it difficult to remember, let alone care, who was who. The characters themselves seemed to share my indifference, with little or no emotiona...more
This is a delightful series of cozy short stories set in the first year of Elizabeth's reign. Canon Sidney Chambers is a relatively young vicar, 32, who may have missed his calling as a detective. But the clergy can go where detectives cannot and can ask questions that detectives cannot. They also make connections that others may not see. I liked this book and it was pleasant to listen to but it didn't do more than that. I would certainly read the next book. I might even listen to it. This isn't...more
This new cozy mystery series set in 1950's Cambridge features a vicar playing detective. While it had all the elements I usually enjoy in this type of series, an amateur playing detective, a curmudgeonly housekeeper and an English setting, it seemed somewhat lacking. I think it needed an injection of humor or maybe a few more wacky characters to keep it from being so dry.
I did like the fact that it's format was in a series of criminal vignettes rather than one single murder mystery but I still...more
I loved the cover of this book - the gentle muted tones, the view of an English Cathedral city, the shadows, all set the book up perfectly. I really liked the way that the title had various meanings throughout the book - the men struggling to come to terms with the death they'd seen in the war, the shadows cast by the deaths within the book, and, for me at least, the shadow of the death penalty hanging over anyone found guilty of murder.

I liked Sidney, the way he disliked sherry but didn't want...more
'Lord' I hate the term 'cosy crime' but these books do certainly come under that label. The character od Sidney the priest who becomes increasingly less resistant to sleuthing roles that seem to land in his lap, is a thoughtful, jazz and beer loving, and thoroughly engaging character - and this is where the charm of these period thrillers - tho the periods themselves really aren't in much evidence, they are set in place in the most unobtrusive of manners. The stories are engaging enough to have...more
The "show, don't tell" set will have a field day with this one, as there is a lot of telling--but I enjoyed it. There is a sedate-sounding narrator, a likable cast of characters, and a Labrador named Dickens. It is all very proper and British (set in the 1950s), although Canon Sidney has quite a liberal cast of mind.

The setting is Grantchester, in whose Orchard Tea Rooms I have sat a time or two. (Close to Cambridge, but still bucolic.) The big name is Rupert Brooke, although he is not mentioned...more
Not bad at all. Semi-deep. Sidney's a thoughtful guy. Will he ever get down to business with Amanda? Probably not. And what about the dog?

Reading this, however, I am struck by how many amateur detectives seem to bring death and destruction wherever they go. Why woud anyone invite Canon Chambers, or Miss Marple, or whoever to anything?
Earnie Painter
I found this book in a used bookstore when I was looking for something else. Having read all of the Agatha Christie books I can find, I longed for something like it to fill my time with reading that wasn't terribly heavy. Sometimes I like a good thick read, and sometimes I long for a light read to get through the weekend. I slipped into these stories like I'd always known them. A new book (new to me) that feels like an old friend, just like meeting somebody and hitting it off immediately as if y...more
Daisy Goodwin
Utterly charming. Think Rumpole crossed with Dorothy L.Sayers with a dash of Miss Marple. Not wildly original but so deftly done. I love the fact that the hero is a clergyman who is always offered sherry which he can't bear but is too polite to refuse. A treat for a rainy day.
Kathy Moberg
This book is just not compelling. It's almost good, which is frustrating (and kept me reading -- I kept thinking it would improve). I like the setting and Sidney Chambers, but it is somehow bland and often stilted. Don't bother.
Very cute and sweet and actually slightly deeper than you expect it to be (although not even approaching Actually Deep).
A bit tame for my taste but quite enjoyable....
I was looking forward to a new mystery series and thought that this author might be the one to select. Uh uh. The characters are very one dimensional and the mysteries too easily solved. It had lots of potential~a handsome vicar sleuth with a close friend in the force and set in the era of the fifties which would have a lot of social/moral issues to write about. I think I missed something. I may pick up another and I will watch the series on tv in the hopes they can 'fill out' the characters and...more
This is a collection of short stories rather than a novel, covering roughly a year or so in the life of a Cambridge Canon.
This would be categorised as a 'cosy' mystery series I imagine, but the first 3/4 of the book are plodding & mediocre, with the last two stories being rather different in tone with violent murder and sexual assault, and they just seem rather odd compared to the other more genteel crimes preceding them.
I didn't really like the main character, he seemed overly passive, he's...more
Read a short review in the Mystery/Crime section of the NY Times Book Review. Canon Sidney Chambers is a 32 year old bachelor and the vicar of Grantchester (Cambridge, England) in the early 1950s. Although a vicar, he seems to get involved with lots of crime-solving - a theft of an engagement ring, an art forgery, mysterious deaths of a number of people in his community. He is good friends with Inspector Keating, often meeting for a pint or two or three! This book reminded me of The No. 1 Ladies...more
I like finding new detectives in mystery stories and the setting for this one, early 1950s, sounded pleasingly different. Our detective, as you might have surmised from the title, is Sidney Chambers, vicar of Grantchester, the quiet English village. Through the short stories in this collection, Sidney is induced to become involved in investigating several mysterious crimes. He is friendly with an inspector and his position in the church lends some authority to his actions while rendering his inv...more
I enjoyed this, but not as much as I had hoped. Period murder mysteries set on my home turf were always going to be a popular read for me- like Miss Marple in South Cambridgeshire. I loved the setting of the book and seeing little details like the names of the local pubs and roads that I know well. I quite liked the technique of several short free-standing mysteries within the book, but they were often too long to read at one sitting (in bed!) and there were often not natural break points. Somet...more
Sidney Chambers is the canon of a church near Cambridge following World War II and he never intended to get into the detection business. However, after one service he is asked by a female parishioner to look into a suicide, which she feels was really a murder. She and the victim had had an affair. Sidney discusses the case with his friend Inspector Geordie Keating and finds out that no note was left. This case is the beginning of what is to be a minor career in helping the police solve crimes.

Ivonne Rovira
Jan 04, 2013 Ivonne Rovira rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
Reading Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death, the first in a proposed series of six mystery books, was an unadulterated pleasure. Author James Runcie crafts such apt descriptions of characters and their observations that I found myself highlighting passage after passage in my Kindle Edition of the book. For example, in reference to the coroner, Derek Jarvis, Runcie writes: "What he lacked in charm he disguised with efficiency." What a precise picture that paints! At a confession of adultery a...more
First off, I expected this to be a novel, so when I got about 70 pages in and it seemed to be winding up the mystery, I was a bit confused. It's actually a series of 6 stories which are different mysteries that Cannon Sidney Chambers finds himself getting involved in. Also, except for the division into stories, there are no chapter breaks.

Of the six stories here, I thought that some worked better than others. The first ones were a little more genteel whereas the later ones, particularly perhaps...more
There are actually five (?) mysteries in this collection. They are longer than the average short story, but not long enough to publish alone, hence the collection.
Sidney Chambers is Canon Sidney Chambers, the priest in charge at the Church of England church in Grantchester, just outside Cambridge. Somehow the priest becomes involved in several police investigations, at least one of which has nothing to do with murder. We discover that Sidney is a jazz fan, that he is very devout, that that does...more
Re-reading the book for the Mystery Group discussion at the end of August. I am back into the story immediately. I may even be enjoying it more the second time around. Sidney is a man of surprising goodness. He truly is a decent human being.

Reading via Net Galley. Canon Chambers debuts. Looking forward to reading this.
Well in to the book and am enjoying it immensely. Sidney Chambers is a warm human being and a very real person. His good friend, a police inspector, begins to listen to his insigh...more
A captivating and engaging, richly detailed novel that is a delicately interwoven tale of shrouded secrets and underlying meaning.

The highly evocative period feel and descriptive dialogue, containing exquisite prose makes this an acutely realistic, compelling read. Beautifully interlaced perspectives make this complex murder mystery so stunningly authentic, enthralling and entirely intriguing to the point of deep fascination. I love the supremely simplistic feel of the mystery surrounding an un...more
Aug 09, 2013 Lori marked it as abandoned  ·  review of another edition
When you find yourself reading a book whilst simultaneously keeping a list of everything about it that is annoying you, it's time to abandon that book. That's what happened to me and 'Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death.'

On paper, I should like this book. It's a cosy series of mysteries about an amateur and reluctant detective set in the 1940s. I started reading it confident that Sidney and I were going to get along perfectly. I was disappointed.


Sidney is a canon in the sleep...more
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Did anyone else thought this part was really stupid? 1 2 Jul 13, 2014 07:51PM  
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James Runcie is a British novelist, documentary film-maker, television producer, theatre director, and Artistic Director of the Bath Literature Festival.
More about James Runcie...
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