Home > 2010, 21st Century, Abandoned books, Beach and Public Transports Books, British Literature, Crime Fiction, Runcie James > Sidney Chamber and the Shadow of Death by James Runcie – Disappointing

Sidney Chamber and the Shadow of Death by James Runcie – Disappointing

September 22, 2019 Leave a comment Go to comments

Sidney Chamber and the Shadow of Death by James Runcie (2013) French title: Sidney Chambers et l’ombre de la mort. Translated by Patrice Repusseau.

I have a rule for Book Around the Corner: write a billet about every book I read, even if I don’t finish it. I have a rather long backlog of billets and I see that I only have three months left to catch up before 2020 starts. Phew! Combine the rule and the backlog and you’ll have a quick-and-dirty billet about Sidney Chamber and the Shadow of Death by James Runcie, a crime fiction book I couldn’t finish.

I’d never heard of Runcie but it is published by Babel Noir, a good reference for crime fiction and the cover called to me. It’s the first volume of the Grantchester mysteries, featuring the vicar Sidney Chambers. He plays amateur detective and feeds his friend inspector Georgie Keating with information. I see that there’s a TV series made out of it.

How can I say this? I was looking for a so-British cozy crime mystery, something that smelled of old spinsters, gossips and church ladies. Sidney Chambers is a thirty-two-year of vicar who has been appointed to the town of Grantchester. Runcie draws the setting, introduces us to his main character. At Stephen Staunton’s funeral, a woman approaches Chambers to speak with him privately. She was Staunton’s mistress and she doesn’t believe that he committed suicide. She asks the vicar to dig around, since he can go where the police are not welcome.

I started to get into the story, thought the plot was developing and suddenly, wham, bam, thank you reader, mystery is solved and now we’re off to a New Year’s Eve dinner party where jewelry is stolen. I thought “What?! That’s it?”

I tried to read further but I couldn’t find any interest in the plot or in the characters’ company. I thought that they were caricatures. I disliked the weepy hostess of the dinner party. Why did she have to be a blubbering mess because something happened in her house?

Long story short, I abandoned it and I was disappointed because I expected a light and entertaining read. Has anyone read this series or watched it TV version? Did I read it at the wrong time or was I not the only one unconvinced by Sidney Chambers?

PS: Don’t you think that the title sounds like Harry Potter?

  1. September 22, 2019 at 11:06 am

    How disappointing! I’ve been meaning to try these because I like cosy crime and I was interested that the author based Sidney on his father, Robert Runcie, who became Archbishop of Canterbury.The plot here does sound a bit of a mess though.


    • September 23, 2019 at 6:01 am

      Oh! So Sidney will get married, eventually. (he thinks he’ll stay single, at least in the 200 pages I’ve read)
      Try Weekend at Trackley if you want great cosy crime.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. September 22, 2019 at 12:55 pm

    It’s really more of a series of short stories rather than a long novel, so I had the same reaction as you, as I expected it to be a full read. The TV series is quite charming (nice actors), and I love the location, but I gave up on the books as well.


    • September 23, 2019 at 5:59 am

      It’s rare that the TV version is better than the book. Maybe the book was an afterthought, coming after the screen version and readers feel it.


      • September 23, 2019 at 1:10 pm

        No, I think the books were out first, and the TV series actually goes a bit off piste compared to the books.


        • September 23, 2019 at 7:42 pm

          OK, so TV improved the storytelling. Unusual.


  3. September 22, 2019 at 3:00 pm

    I almost always like the book better, but this is the rare case where I like series more. The stories seem somewhat…undeveloped.


    • September 23, 2019 at 5:57 am

      I haven’t seen the series but “undeveloped” is the right word for the stories. As if the writer had forgotten that writing a book means more details than writing a scenario.


  4. September 22, 2019 at 3:19 pm

    I can’t say I’ve been drawn to them but that’s probably because of my snobbishness about the blandness of modern crime writing, especially this slew of period crime which seems mostly very trite. I tend to go more for the original classic crime myself… 😉


    • September 23, 2019 at 5:56 am

      There are gifted modern crime writers with an excellent style. Louise Penny, Fred Vargas, Craig Johnson, Benjamin Winter, for example.
      This one was bland and not even well constructed.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. September 22, 2019 at 7:18 pm

    Yes the title does sound like Potter.
    I’ve seen this series and have no interest. Partly the vicar thing partly the whole mystery procedural thing. I can see that the TV series might have its charms though.


    • September 22, 2019 at 9:37 pm

      I thought the books could have their charm too but no.
      Sometimes we miss.

      Liked by 1 person

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