Sidney Chambers, the Vicar of Grantchester, is a thirty-two-year-old bachelor. Tall, with dark brown hair, eyes the colour of hazelnuts and a reassuringly gentle manner, Sidney is an unconventional clergyman and can go where the police cannot.
Together with his roguish friend, Inspector Geordie Keating, Sidney inquires into the suspect suicide of a Cambridge solicitor, a scandalous jewellery theft at a New Year’s Eve dinner party, the unexplained death of a well-known jazz promoter and a shocking art forgery, the disclosure of which puts a close friend in danger. Sidney discovers that being a detective, like being a clergyman, means that you are never off duty. Nonetheless, he manages to find time for a keen interest in cricket, warm beer, hot jazz and the works of Tolstoy and Shakespeare – as well as a curious fondness for a German widow three years his junior.
From the son of the former Archbishop of Canterbury, this is the first of The Grantchester Mysteries, six detective novels spanning thirty years of British history – from the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 to the wedding of Charles and Diana in 1981 – featuring the unforgettable vicar and sleuth, Sidney Chambers.
This was a book that had been recommended to me by another book group. Anything which sounds like a Harry Potter novel will always get me excited, but I was rather curious as to what this could be about. I’m a huge fan of the old, tradition style crime novels so I was really looking forward to giving this a try. Personally, I loved it. If I could roll Murder, She Wrote and Cluedo together then I’m pretty sure that this would be the end result. You have six short stories that were wonderfully written with very satisfying conclusions. The primary story (about Sidney himself) is interesting to read and you can’t help but want to know what happens next.
The group were quite positive about the book too. Although it was seen as quite an ‘easy’ read it was also a pleasure to read, which trumps our past books as some have been quite an effort. There were various religious comments peppered throughout but rather than clouding the overall story these were welcomed by most readers. It makes for a refreshing change without being overbearing and I thought that it added something a little fresh to the crime novel. It was also quite interesting to learn that hanging was still present in the 1950s and it was illegal to be homosexual. These themes were quite present throughout some of the stories and it made for an interesting conversation about the fact that these practices were still very much alive just 50 years ago. How times have changed (thankfully!).
There was just one story that the group felt was a little bit over the top, and didn’t quite fit. It became very personal and creepy, which didn’t feel true to the story’s structure. Some of the investigative work felt a little too easy in this story as well, which was a shame as the rest of the novel flowed quite nicely. Overall, it was a nice read and various members have already bought the next book – me included. It’s quite nice to get away from all the blood and gore sometimes and just read a novel where the investigator just uses their instincts (like our good friend Sherlock Holmes).
So, this was generally a great little read with a lot to offer, and if you like your crime fiction but fancy a modern day Agatha Christie, then this is the book for you. It’s also going to be coming out as a TV series on ITV in the autumn so keep your eyes peeled.