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by James Runcie
Bloomsbury USA, May 2017
368 pages
ISBN: 163286794X

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SIDNEY CHAMBERS AND THE PERSISTENCE OF LOVE is James Runcie’s sixth book in this series featuring Anglican priest Sydney Chambers. Although Sydney has a full time job as Archdeacon, he is often called upon to use his abilities as a sleuth. Sometimes he is directly connected to the investigation, as when he stumbles across a dead body in the woods or when a rare religious book is stolen. At other times, his friend Detective Inspector Geordie Keating calls upon him to help. Their relationship and banter is one of the joys of this book, as well as of its predecessors. The melancholy musings that occupy Sydney’s brain are also part of what engages the reader again and again. He is full of self-doubt and insecurities, from wondering if his wife Hildegard really loves him to feeling unworthy to be a part of the church hierarchy.

This current book consists of six chapters that are actually individual stories, all set in the 1970s. They feature the cast of characters readers have come to know and love from previous books. Besides Geordie, we read about Sydney's wife Hildegard, daughter Anna, and close friend Amanda—Sydney's love from the past. Each chapter involves Sidney in a different sort of criminal situation. Some of what he encounters includes murder, a rape accusation, a stolen antiquarian book, and a lost relative. The stories are not connected, although a few references to the previous events are often included.

Could the GRANTCHESTER MYSTERIES be considered cozies? One definition of a "cozy" is that it includes a sleuth—usually a woman—who is not an official detective but solves crimes anyway; it takes place in a small town; it relies on a recurring cast of characters. I consider this series to be the cozy-haters cozy. It takes place in the rural English town of Grantchester, and has the correct sort of non-professional sleuth—although Sydney is a man and a religious figure. It also has recurring characters with intertwined relationships. But the internal workings of Sydney's soul and mind, his constant inner turmoil and agonizing over good and evil and church ritual—all of these tend to make this not quite fit the more light-hearted cozy template. In the current book, personal loss puts the book in another category as well. However the best reason for not considering SIDNEY CHAMBERS AND THE PERSISTENCE OF LOVE to be a cozy is that I do not enjoy reading or reviewing cozy mysteries—and I loved this book.

§ Anne Corey is a writer, poet, teacher and botanical artist in New York's Hudson Valley.

Reviewed by Anne Corey, May 2017

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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