SIDNEY CHAMBERS AND THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS, by James Runcie. Bloomsbury, 405 pp., $18 paper.
Sidney Chambers, crime-solving Anglican priest, is back. Brief recap: Sidney Chambers is the creation of James Runcie, a talented English novelist and screenwriter and the son of Robert Runcie, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1980 to 1991. Runcie knows Anglicanism and the English temperament inside and out, as well as a thing or three about telling a story.
"Forgiveness of Sins" is the fourth of six books planned for the "Grantchester" series. Runcie has said the series was inspired both by G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown and his own father's experiences, preoccupations and priestly dilemmas.
The books have been made into a BBC/PBS series called "Grantchester," and I am happy to say that they have not suffered from TV fame -- if anything, they are getting better.
To be sure, there are the standard stock characters of the English mystery universe. Sidney's detective partner, Geordie Keating, is an avowed atheist who nevertheless respects Sidney's acute understanding of human nature. There's a cake-loving curate. Though Sidney's original black Lab has passed to his reward, he has a new canine companion.
The Sidney Chambers series may be comforting, but it's not simple. Runcie meant these novels to be a commentary on life in post-World War II Britain, and so they are. But the themes of good and evil, temptation and sacrifice, remain as fresh as today's news feed.