James Runcie: Sidney Chambers and The Forgiveness of Sins
Published by Bloomsbury, hardback, 19th May 2015
The loveable full-time priest and part-time detective, Canon Sidney Chambers,
continues his sleuthing adventures in 1960's Cambridge. On a snowy Thursday
morning in Lent 1964, a stranger seeks sanctuary in Grantchester's church,
convinced he has murdered his wife. Sidney and his wife Hildegard go for a
shooting weekend in the country and find their hostess has a sinister burn on
her neck. Sidney's friend Amanda receives poison pen letters when at last she
appears to be approaching matrimony. A firm of removal men 'accidentally' drop a
Steinway piano on a musician's head outside a Cambridge college. During a
cricket match, a group of schoolboys blow up their school Science Block. And on
a family holiday in Florence, Sidney is accused of the theft of a priceless
painting. Meanwhile, on the home front, Sidney's new curate Malcolm seems set to become
rather irritatingly popular with the parish; his baby girl Anna learns to walk
and talk; Hildegard longs to get an au pair and Sidney is offered a promotion. Entertaining, suspenseful, thoughtful, moving and deeply humane, these six
new stories are bound to delight the clerical detective's many fans.
I could never get on with Father Brown... Clergymen detectives are hardly two-a-penny, and although some reviewers have chosen to compare Sidney Chambers with Brown, I take a different view on the reason behind James Runcie's success with the Grantchester Mysteries. This is the fourth in the series and the unthinkable has happened: Sidney has been offered the archdeaconry of Ely. This is unthinkable. Read more on the Crime page...
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There's a stunning line-up of new books this month! The new Poldark series (which finished last Sunday - a second series has been commissioned) is grabbing all the headlines and is generally reckoned to be better than the first - I would agree with that, although it probably has something to do with the fact that we've moved on considerably in terms of the quality of the screens on which we watch our TV serials nowadays...
My final comment on the General Election 2015: Norman Lamb (LibDem) speaking in 2010: "I went into politics because I despise the tories and I want to beat them..." Enough said.
My book of the month for May is a work of non-fiction, but in many ways it is a fairy tale. You won't find it on the non-fiction page, it has its own page in this issue, and the page is called Falstaff. There are a number of reasons for this - I wanted to compile a feature about Sir Antony Sher's book, published yesterday by Nick Hern Books, YEAR OF THE FAT KNIGHT, whilst at the same time including some photographs of Sir Anthony as Falstaff, together with reviews of two of Robert Nye's books, FALSTAFF and THE LATE MR SHAKESPEARE, both of which are published by Allison and Busby. Secondly, I want my review of the book to remain available and not get lost when I overwrite this month's reviews with next month's. Sir Antony Sher was knighted in 2000 for services to acting and writing, and having just read his Falstaff Diaries I can attest to the fact that, had he not chosen to become an actor (he is recognised as one of the finest Shakespearean actors of our generation, but you don't need me to tell you that), he could have followed a writing career. This is a joyful ourpouring of a man at the top of his game, sharing his intimate and private diaries with his public. YEAR OF THE FAT KNIGHT will be Radio 4's book of the week next week, read by Sir Antony Sher himself. I can't say I've ever listened to Radio 4 in my life, but I recognise its importance and its influence on the arts. This isn't simply a book about acting, it's a book about life, written by a man who is passionate about what he does and attempts to put the best of himself into anything he does. He is a self-confessed workaholic, and that shines through in the book, which is a simply sumptuous read, perfectly packaged by Nick Hern Books.
Pubishers Macmillan have reissued Winston Graham's book about Cornwall, the setting for the Poldark novels, with an introduction by his son. I'm not sure if the photographs are new or if they are the originals - either way, the book is an absolute triumph, and is my nonfiction book of the month, although it's fighting for its place with Mary Berry's ABSOLUTE FAVOURITES, and the brand new DK mammoth volume on the Second World War. There's also a magnificent reissue of DK's DC COMICS YEAR BY YEAR to contend with.
My Crime book of the month has to be the short novel by Stuart MacBride featuring Logan MacRae and DI Steel: 22 DEAD LITTLE BODIES, which is just about enough to be going on with till next year, and the next full-length novel from the King of British Crime Writers. There is a new Sharon Bolton (author of the superb Lacey Flint series) coming in July: LITTLE BLACK LIES, and it is terrific, but it's too early to say much about it, just to whet your appetite... In the meantime, last Saturday saw the delivery of the very latest in the Grantchester Mysteries, SIDNEY CHAMBERS AND THE FORGIVENESS OF SIN, which I started reading on Tuesday. I've read enough to write my review, it is absolutely superb, and has to be a second Crime Book of the Month!
Mary Hooper's POPPY IN THE FIELD is the sequel to her Young Adult novel POPPY from this time last year, and sees our favourite VAD heroine almost at the front line, dealing with horrific injuries and chance meetings with Freddie de Vere, who's only gone and got himself married! This is so well written, there really wasn't any other choice to be made for my Adult fiction book of the month. This is what I wrote about "Poppy" at the time: "Poppy is the perfect combination of fact and fiction for adults and young adults alike..."
Finally, Jeff Povey's superb sequel to Shift, DELETE, is my children's book of the month, and you can read more about all of these fabulous books on their various pages...
Jerry Dowlen heard about the fact I was going to be reviewing Sir Anthony Sher's new book, YEAR OF THE FAT KNIGHT, and has written a fascinating column about Sher, who we both remember starring in the BBC's dramatisation of Malcolm Bradbury's THE HISTORY MAN in 1982. At the same time, Allison and Busby have kindly supplied me with copies of Robert Nye's two Shakespearean novels, FALSTAFF, and THE LATE MR SHAKESPEARE, and you'll find my reviews of these two books on the special Falstaff page. At the time of writing (30th April), I've just finished reading YEAR OF THE FAT KNIGHT and have written my review, but I've run out of time for uploading this issue, so that will be done tomorrow, 1st May!
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Editor, publisher and author...
The small print: Books Monthly, now in its eighteenth year on the web, is published on or slightly before the first day of each month by me, Paul Norman. You can contact me here. If you wish to submit something for publication in the magazine, let me remind you there is no payment as I don't make any money from it, it's free. If you want to send me something to review, contact me via email and I'll let you know where to send it.
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