Friday, January 15, 2016

Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death by Runcie

I was reading a mystery with mediocre writing and mildly interesting characters, wondering if I should bother to finish it, when I received a notice from the library that this book had come in. The first paragraph of Shadow of Death, with its flawless prose and engaging hero, left no question in my mind as to which book was more worthy of my time.

Sidney Chambers is an Anglican priest who has a talent for getting mixed up in murders. The events take place in the 1950s and the author does a wonderful job of inserting appropriate historical details. The characters are well drawn and the story lines are nicely varied.

I agreed with WORLD magazine's review of this title as a cozy mystery - until the last hundred pages. The last two stories are about a lascivious man and then a man who is murdered for his sexual orientation. The former was gruesome and the latter was too politically correct to be enjoyable.

In spite of these defects, I relished this novel for its intelligent dialogue, its positive view of a Christian pastor, and its intriguing cast of characters.

I look forward to reading the sequels.

Warning: the BBC series based on the Sidney Chambers character is quite different. Each short story from the book is extended to one hour and things that are implicit in the book are explicit on the DVDs. Several sexual situations are added. Every episode ends with a ridiculously shallow sermon excusing whatever sin was highlighted in that particular episode.

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