Sidney Chambers really does prefer to stay out of trouble. As a husband, father and vicar, he is kept quite busy by the needs of his family and his parish. However, when mysterious deaths occur in his congregation, concern for his parishioners compels him to investigate, in the Grantchester Mysteries series by the United Kingdom’s James Runcie.
Runcie composes another set of clever mysteries in the most recent volume, “Sidney Chambers and the Forgiveness of Sin,” which is the fourth in the series and was released May 19. This installment includes a hostess with a mysterious burn, a fiancee receiving vitriolic letters, an exploding school building, a falling piano and the theft of a priceless painting.
However, the real charm of this series lies in its portrait of post-World War II England and the moral philosophizing of Sidney. Death is not so shocking to these characters; most of them fought in the war or lost friends or family. Many people in this series connected to the murders have already taken a life. After witnessing the carnage of World War II, the people of Grantchester are questioning and exploring the morality of murder, including questions about why humans kill, when it is justifiable to take a life and why society condones murder in one setting and condemns it in another.
The religiosity of the previous volumes is still very much present in this installment. As the title “Sidney Chambers and the Forgiveness of Sin” suggests, all of the six short stories deal with the theme of forgiveness. As various individuals throughout the series deal with being wronged in various ways, it prompts reflection on the true meaning of forgiveness and the practical application of this principle to move on after an injury.
Each of the six short stories contains at least one murder, but the described violence is not gratuitous. A few mild profanities are sprinkled throughout the book. There are inexplicit references to homosexuality, domestic violence, adultery and sexual abuse, but there is no described sexual content.
Sidney Chambers is an upright protagonist in this thoughtful exploration of crime and humanity and will be welcome to readers who are tired of antiheroes.
Rachel Chipman graduated with a bachelor's degree in family life and human development. Her current goals are to read more, to write more and to learn to type while holding her infant daughter. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.