At first sight this appeared to be a cosy story, set in Cambridge in the 1950, (Morse?), more than one murder (Midsomer?), but I was soon disabused.
Our hero, Canon Sidney Chambers, chaplain to Corpus Christi, friend to Inspector Keating, has a nose for unusual events and a talent for working things out. When, apparently indulging in the well-known pastime of scaling the towers of the college buildings, three men come to grief, the Master asks Sidney for his advice. One man is killed, one disappears. Not much seems to come from this, and Sidney's next encounter is with an ex-film-director whose studio is destroyed by fire. And then we meet Hildegarde, for whom Sidney something more than a liking. He feels the same about Amanda, a rich heiress. The choice between them exercises his mind, in between entertaining Hildegarde, discussing the apparent heart-attack of the Bursar, and acting as umpire in a cricket match, described in loving detail over two chapters (Simon Brett?) It dawned on me gradually that all these diversions were in fact germane to the plot, including as they did philosophical, religious and physics- related information. It was not, however until I reached the final chapter that I realised where it was all leading.
Sidney goes to Berlin to stay with Hildegarde. Because her mother has had an accident Hildegarde wants him to join her in Leipzig. Hildegarde's brother has to arrange visas and so on, and it was then that the penny dropped. I955: Burgess and Maclean, disappearing Cambridge men, leading to the Berlin Wall. And Sidney was there in the middle of it all. It makes for a very tense last chapter.
It seems that there are four more books in this series. It is hard to imagine how James Runcie can top this. I hope to get hold of the first book. Meanwhile I shall re-read The Perils of the Night now I know what to look out for.