We take a break from intense mysteries of intense intenseness for something a little big cozier.
Canon Sidney Chambers doesn't really want to be involved in the worldly matters of murder but people keep dragging him into their sordid affairs. There is the mistress who insists that her lover was murdered, his sister's boyfriend whose father happens to be a famous jewel thief, the strangled cigarette girl at the jazz concert, the missing painting, the little old lady who may have been done in by her future son-in-law doctor, and the gruesome theatrical murder that turns a little too literal.
Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death is a collection of short mystery stories that are mostly gentle, insular crimes that play out like morality plays. Sidney is charming and spends a lot of time worrying that he should be a better priest and not running across the countryside tracking down killers.
I enjoy the book until one particular story: (Please note, discussion includes mention of sexual assault)
In The Lost Holbein, Sidney's socialite sort-of love interest is kidnapped and assaulted. As it was told from Amanda's point of view, it was an extremely difficult to read and I don't know that it had any place in this collection. What made it more disturbing, was that in the context of the narrative, the incident was there to punish Amanda for being the sort of upstart, aggressive woman that can never settle down with our main character.
The incisive Seanan McGuire has an excellent post about the societal expectation that rape/sexual assault will naturally be part of a woman's fictional narrative. It is well worth a read.
The entire situation read as taking Amanda down a peg for daring to function as autonomous from the males in the story. The narrative reads that because she took initiative to investigate on her own, she is naturally kidnapped and threatened with rape. And of course the righteous men (Sidney and the police force) are there to rescue her. I am sure that this was not the intent of James Runcie.
To make matter worse, the entire incident is played for laughs at the end.