Grantchester 1.05

A drink, a dance, a dead body. Sidney and Amanda (James Norton and Morven Christie).
A drink, a dance, a dead body. Sidney and Amanda (James Norton and Morven Christie).

Sidney and Geordie are off to the big city for a harmless night out, or at least as harmless as a night in a 1950s jazz club in London can be.

For a clergyman from Cambridgeshire, Canon Sidney Chambers (James Norton) spends shockingly few “harmless” nights. Crime seems to follow him around, and it goes without saying that crime is part of the job for Sidney’s best friend and drinking buddy, Inspector Geordie Keating (Robson Green). No surprise, then, that their night of jazz and whiskey is upended by murder.

More of a surprise, perhaps, is Amanda (Morven Christie) who walks into the club not long after Sidney and Geordie arrive. Very cozy, or very awkward depending on how you look at it. Despite the fact that Amanda is engaged to someone else and Sidney’s taken up with a new gal, Sidney remains smitten with Amanda and she plays him like a violin (or, since we’re being all hip and jazzy, a stand-up bass).

Much drinking and dancing ensue. You can fairly see the stars twinkling in their eyes. Nothing could make this night more exciting except…a murder.

They (and we) barely had time to get to know this week’s victim before her head’s bashed in with an “industrial counterweight.” Not your typical weapon, and perhaps not something conveniently found at a jazz club. The killer brought it with him, Geordie surmises. But why? And, more to the point, why kill this sweet-faced young woman who works at the nightclub coat check?

The victim is Claudie Johnson. Her brother Johnny (Ukweli Roach) is Jennifer’s boyfriend. Their father, Archie (Peter Egan), owns the club. Jennifer (Fiona Button) is Sidney’s sister. Loosely speaking, they’re all related, but this is most definitely not “happy families.”

There’s a complicated history here, which Geordie and Sidney set out to unravel. Never mind that Geordie’s working well out of his jurisdiction and Sidney’s even farther from his turf, considering he’s not even a detective. He is, however, a huge jazz fan, which is about to get him into even more trouble than his penchant for amateur detection.

And speaking of trouble…

I confess I’m having a little trouble with Sidney.

He’s supposed to be an atypical clergyman, as evidenced by the fact that he doesn’t care for sherry (we’re reminded of this yet again this week) and he looks sinfully handsome in his civvies (ditto). Yet, I’m wondering how much “atypical” we should be expected  to tolerate.

Dance with the one that brung ya? Geordie (Robson Green) sits this one out.
Dance with the one that brung ya? Geordie (Robson Green) sits this one out.

Sidney can be awfully inconsiderate; ignoring Geordie so he can dance with Amanda all evening. He’s irresponsible; leaving Leonard the curate to pick up the slack when Sidney skips church services without warning. He’s also a practiced liar; doling out porky pies to all and sundry. This week, he’s lying to Hildegard, the German widow, in an effort to cover up a certain breach in his canonical behavior. Not nice, Sidney.

This might be a good time to mention that James Runcie who writes the Sidney Chambers mysteries on which Grantchester is based, is the son of the late Robert Runcie, a former Archbishop of Canterbury. His stories are thoughtful, concerned with human foibles and moral dilemmas; and Sidney’s a much more admirable guy in print.

The questions I have are with the TV version of Sidney, who frets weekly over his inability to live a life that’s at least upstanding, if not exemplary. “I’m supposed to be a role model!” he moans, regretting his latest lapse in judgment. Yes, Sidney. You’ve entered the clergy. That people look to you for guidance shouldn’t come as a shock.

TV Sidney doesn’t seem to know what he wants to be. He has one more episode in this series to figure that out.

Leslie Gilbert Elmanis the author of Weird But True: 200 Astounding, Outrageous, and Totally Off the Wall Facts. Follow her on Twitter @leslieelman.

Read all of Leslie Gilbert Elman’s posts for Criminal Element.


  1. DJ Shatley

    I wouldn’t have read the books if I hadn’t watched the first few episodes of the tv series, but the more I watch the more I prefer the books. The tv series is starting to make Sydney too weak-kneed to stay likable. It’s the lying more than anything; you’re right, he does it too easily.

  2. Leslie Gilbert Elman

    I like the books. They remind me of Agatha Christie short stories in that their scale is small and they’re short on Drama (with a capital D). The characters are more believable and more likable, particularly Amanda.

    TV Sidney’s lies aren’t harmless, they’re hurtful and self-serving. That makes it hard to root for him.

  3. Flo

    This was an excellent recap. I wasn’t really into the series at first; the snotty, fickle Amanda was a turn-off, as was the nasty housekeeper. Also, the series is a bit stiff and serious. However, I love how wonderfully Robson Green plays Geordie’s wit. He wakes up disheveled and hair rumpled asking about a little communion wine. He asks the vicar: “Well, are you going to tell me or do I have to guess?” When he learns of the sexual encounter, he asks in amused seriousness: “It wasn’t any good?” I laughed my head off. I look forward to the next episode.

  4. Leslie Gilbert Elman

    Robson Green is terrific. I wish he had more to do in this series.

    Have you noticed the height disparity between Sidney and Geordie? In Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death, James Runcie describes Geordie: “He was a man who was two inches shorter than he wanted to be, which was not his fault, and his suit needed pressing, which was.”

    I think that’s perfect.

  5. Flo

    Hard not to notice the difference. I’m not familiar with the book series. I didn’t know that perhaps the height difference is intentional in the tv series, but I like it. Although at 5’9″, I don’t think Green is short. The casting is truly excellent.

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