“The Flying Stars” is one of Chesterton’s mysteries featuring Father Brown. It’s actually the first of these short stories I’ve read and I picked it up more because it’s a Christmas mystery than to meet Father Brown, even though he is a character I’d like to read more of.
The story takes place at an English manor home on Boxing Day. A young lady and the young man who lives next door are present, as is the girl’s father, Colonel Adams, a newly arrived uncle and a quite rich godfather. Also present, in addition to the servants, simply because the Colonel likes his company is the local priest, Father Brown. The godfather has brought a gift for the young lady, a set of three gorgeous, large diamonds, which he has tucked away in his coat pocket.
The uncle comes up with a plan for the evening’s enter, a masquerade play, with costumes and hijinks and jokes. Of course, the diamonds get stolen during the evening, and Father Brown is the one who comes up with the solution.
I really enjoyed this first meeting with Father Brown. He seems like a nondescript man, gentle but intelligent, one who knows human nature, good and bad. Also, Flambeau is in this story, apparently a recurring figure in the Father Brown mysteries.
As far as a Christmas mystery goes, it doesn’t draw on the season much, aside from being the reason this particular group of people is together and why the diamonds are in the house, but any even or holiday could have been substituted.
On the other hand, the thief himself states, near the beginning of the story:
“Well, my last crime was a Christmas crime, a cheery, cosy, English middle-class crime; a crime of Charles Dickens. I did it in a good old middle-class house near Putney, a house with a crescent of carriage drive, a house with a stable by the side of it, a house with the name on the two outer gates, a house with a monkey tree. Enough, you know the species. I really think my imitation of Dickens’s style was dexterous and literary. It seems almost a pity I repented the same evening.”
And repentance does always make for a good Christmas story.
I read this in Murder for Christmas edited by Thomas Godfrey, a great collection that I pull out every December, but it’s also available in The Innocence of Father Brown by G. K. Chesterton. It can be read on-line free here.
4½ out of 5 stars
Category: Short Story – Mystery
From Father Brown #1
First published May 20, 1911 in The Saturday Evening Post
Book source: Personal library