James Runcie
After Good and Evil: The Grantchester Mysteries
21 February 2018

Does the world need another amateur detective, effortlessly solving the murder mysteries which have baffled the professional crime solvers? When the character is Sidney Chambers, the compelling central character of James Runcie’s Grantchester Mysteries the answer is a resounding ‘Yes.’ Because Sidney is a vicar as well as an amateur sleuth he must confront, not just the need to find the culprit guilty of murder and protect innocent suspects, but the ethical dilemma involved when having to decide between respecting the confidences available only to the clergy and telling the truth.

He is, as his creator has succinctly described him, ‘Morse with morals’ albeit based in the environs of Cambridge rather than Oxford. ‘As a clergyman he has to think the best of people; as a detective he must assume the worst.’ James has acknowledged that Sidney is based on his father, Robert Runcie, Archbishop of Canterbury down to the wartime service, whose horrors Sidney can never entirely escape. Set in the 1950’s, James uses the stories to explore the social changes which were transforming England in the post-war period. In summary, they are moral fables in the tradition of G. K. Chesterton’s Father Brown, mixing crime, comedy and social history. They have now been brought to our TV screens by ITV in their Grantchester series.

James Runcie has had a varied career, bridging the worlds of writing, broadcasting and Arts administration. Currently he is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, a visiting professor at Bath Spa university and Commissioning Editor for Arts at BBC Radio 4.