The fourth and latest in the series of The Grantchester Mysteries was launched at the Church House Bookshop in Westminster last week, on 19 May. It’s Sidney Chambers and The Forgiveness of Sins. It’s by James Runcie.
Like its three predecessors it has as its hero the Vicar of Grantchester, Sidney Chambers. Sensitive, likeable, with an MC (and traumatic memories) from WW2. This new volume consists of six stories, each self-contained: we see Sidney conscientiously carrying out his full-time parish ministry but also fitting in the solving of mysteries. The Forgiveness of Sins takes us from 1964 to 1966. As before we are still largely in the Grantchester and Cambridge setting.
At the launch James Runcie told us that his intention in writing the Grantchester Mysteries series was to explore the social history of Britain between 1953 and 1979, a period of enormous social change. The crime genre is a happy way of doing this and is, of course, highly popular at the moment. He speculated on whether the present-day appeal of the crime genre relates in some way to our squeamishness about death: it is no longer ever-present in daily life as it was in times past, and crime fiction provided us with one way of handling its mystery and issues of loss.
When creating Sidney Chambers the author had wanted to get away from the comic or foolish clergyman so often portrayed in the media, away from Derek Nimmo or Dick Emery caricatures and their modern equivalents. He has certainly succeeded in that. In answer to one question he told us that when writing Sidney he does not have in mind James Norton (who plays him in the TV series Grantchester), though when composing DI Keating, with whom Sidney collaborates when solving his mysteries, he now does so with actor Robson Green’s voice in his head. Sidney is a composite of various clergy James Runcie has come across, and the author’s upbringing was such that he came across more clergymen than most.
I’m much looking forward to reading The Forgiveness of Sins. The previous volumes are Sidney Chambers and The Shadow of Death, SC & The Perils of the Night, and SC & The Problem of Evil. They are published by Bloomsbury. The ISBN of SC & The Forgiveness of Sins is 978-1-4088-6220-9 and its hardback RRP is £14-99.
The photo shows James Runcie at the book launch.