Murder and the Cloth: Grantchester

Jul 8, 2017 | 2017 Articles, Kathleen Costa, Mysteryrat's Maze, TV

by Kathleen Costa

Grantchester, first aired in 2014 (UK) and 2015 (US), is entering its third season, Sunday nights on PBS. Based on The Grantchester Mysteries, a collection of short stories by James Runcie, this detective drama is set in the 1950s. The stories follow Rev. Sidney Chambers (brilliantly played by James Norton), an Anglican vicar who attends his flock, listens to jazz, and enjoys a few sips of whiskey (more than a few, if it’s been a bad day). tv

On some of those bad days, he finds himself involved in investigating murders along with the local police, Detective Geordie Keating (a perfect casting of Robson Greene). Chambers, a former Scots Guard, has a lot in common with Detective Geordie Keating, a WWII veteran, so a friendship begins even with the occasional pitfall that can often occur with two men coming from different perspectives: one using the local felony statutes, another using the Ten Commandments.

Season One, based on the six stories in Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death, begins with a suicide. The mistress of the dead man comes to Sidney absolutely sure that it was murder. Using his position and knowledge of his congregation, he starts to ask a few questions, but runs afoul of the local police department, as he appears to be nothing but an interference. Detective Keating, although often annoyed and pulling rank, recognizes that Sidney has a unique intuitive skill-set that lends itself well to the task. book

Playing out in the background is a challenging relationship with Amanda Kendall (Morven Christie), a close friend for whom Sidney has deep feelings and who is planning to marry someone else. At the end, Sidney struggles with flashbacks from the war, Amanda’s impending marriage is set and a final investigation puts one of our partners in grave danger…

Season Two begins by exploring some darker issues, as Sidney is accused of sexual assault. The pregnant fifteen year-old found dead under suspicious circumstances has a diary that casts aspersions on Sidney and the clergy itself. This murder and assault accusation weaves through the season ending with Sidney hitting a brick wall when trying to hold a fellow vicar accountable, finding himself in opposition with Geordie and the crown’s idea of justice, and trying to stop an unjust execution.

Playing in the background we have Sidney testing the dating scene with police department clerk, Margaret Ward (Seline Hizli), and his parish assistant, Curate Leonard Finch (well played by Al Weaver) struggling with his own homosexuality. At the end, we find Sidney full of drink, Leonard exploring a new relationship and several partnerships shattered…

Season Three is just beginning in the US with more of the personal dilemmas taking center stage. Both Sidney and Geordie are struggling with relationships that their circumstances do not allow: Sidney torn over his feelings for divorcée, Amanda, whom the church will not allow him to marry, and Geordie whose secret affair with a co-worker may destroy his marriage. Both seem unwilling to admit they’re muddying their respective vows, and choices they are forced to make may tear everyone apart. Leonard recognizes the futility of his coming clean about his sexuality and decides to explore a relationship with parishioner Hilary, and the cantankerous housekeeper Mrs. Maquire (Tessa Peake-Jones) is plagued by the reappearance of her husband and torn by feelings for the dashing John Chapman. At the end, we have Sidney suffering a crisis of faith, relationships begging for closure and ultimatums finally made…

For this Anglophile, Grantchester is a favorite British drama! The stories are very engaging, weaving both the community, the era and often Sidney’s sermons to provide many philosophical discussions.

The mores of the 1950s are brilliantly incorporated and illustrating the less than enlightened view of women (fashion, too, as all women wear dresses and hats to match their pocketbooks), race, and class status along with the tight rein the church holds on many communities. However, those do not seem archaic, as they are very contemporary for today’s debates.

Although there are darker themes of adultery, homosexuality, abuse and all kinds of motives for murder explored, viewers often get a resolution that shows justice will prevail or at least a sense of justice. It is the personal challenges with which each of the characters are consumed that stoke my interest along with the realism in their reactions. Although season three ends with some rewarding resolutions, a season four is hinted–at least I hope so!

Grantchester earns 5/5 Sunday Sermons with a Detective Shield Chaser!

Check out Masterpiece Mystery on the PBS website to watch the season 3 episodes that have already aired here in the US.

PBS – Where We Let Off
Amazon – Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death
Wikipedia – Grantchester (TV Series)
Facebook – Masterpiece PBS

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Kathleen Costa is a long-time resident of the Central Valley, and although born in Idaho, she considers herself a “California Girl.” Graduating from CSU-Sacramento, she is a 35+ year veteran teacher having taught in grades 1-8 in schools from Sacramento to Los Angeles to Stockton to Lodi. Currently Kathleen is enjoying her retirement revitalizing hobbies along with exploring writing, reading for pleasure, and spending 24/7 with her husband.

Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.


  1. This is a favorite show of mine…the storylines, the acting, the setting. Many of these stories come from James Rucie’s work which is exciting since the books often go into more plot details and character development. Check it out!

  2. Kathleen, this is a wonderful review of one of my favorite shows. You’ve captured Sydney and his struggles brilliantly and I love your insights on the other characters who help make the show so entertaining. Not to mention, James Norton is certainly easy on the eyes, lol.


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