We review the latest in the popular book series Sidney Chambers and the Problem of Evil, by James Runcie

(Bloomsbury, £11.99; ebook, £7.99)

This autumn, Sidney Chambers—vicar of Grantchester and amateur sleuth—will have his own series on ITV. But for those who want to beat the crowds, the third book in the series has all the pleasures of the first two. At one point in this batch of four tales, Sidney rereads Dorothy L Sayers, wondering if “perhaps these stories weren’t so much about the intricacies of plot, but atmosphere, character and morality”—a phrase that could certainly serve as James Runcie’s manifesto.

Not many readers will turn the pages here, unable to work out who done it. Plenty, however, will enjoy the historical setting, which by now has reached the early 1960s (think Heartbeat without the cutting edge). Above all, they’ll relish the company of Sidney himself, affectionately and almost defiantly presented as
a kindly Christian doing his best in an increasingly secular world. (The author is the son of the former Archbishop of Canterbury.)

In fact, Sidney is such a pleasure to be with that these are crime stories that might work just as well without the crime—especially now that he’s settling into marriage with his loving but jealous German
wife. The result, once again, is gentle, often funny and undeniably charming.

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