The Man Who Knew Too Much by G. K. Chesterton

I knew Chesterton as a religious writer. I think that one of the collections I read had a selection or two by him. I was surprised when I learned he was also a well-known mystery author.

The Man Who Knew Too Much is more or less a collection of eight short stories featuring Horne Fisher. Fisher is a low-key man, seemingly uninterested but actually very observant and intelligent. He has many friends and relatives in the government, which add an interesting layer to these stories which take place in pre-World War I England.

“I know too much,” he said. “that’s what’s the matter with me. That’s what’s the matter with all o us, and the whole show; we know too much. Too much about one another; too much about orselves.” (4%)

But Fisher uses what he knows about human nature, about politics, about people to solve a variety of puzzling crimes. Each time we are given the clues, but it’s not until Fisher calmly, almost disdainfully, lays out the solution that we understand.

An interesting note though is that although each case is solved, the killer is never brought to justice. Fisher can’t report him to the police, the outcome could be too damaging to the reputations of those involved or to Britain as a whole. In that way it’s different than a lot of detective stories.

Overall, this was an enjoyable book. Fisher, while not a charming man, is an interesting character. He has insight into how things really work, is a pessimist but at heart is still a member of the aristocracy. The crimes are common, murder, theft, but the solutions are truly quite clever.

Purchase at Amazon, an Indie bookstore, or The Book Depository.

166 pages
First published in 1922

4 out of 5 stars

Challenge: Vintage Mystery

I downloaded the Kindle version for free and the above is my honest opinion.


    • Not in most of the cases. Once the killer messed up the plan and ended up killing himself, another one the killer skipped town before the conclusion. But no, I don’t think there was much remorse. The stories were more about how Fisher could put the clues together and figure it out.

  • Not bringing the criminal to justice reminds me of some of the Sherlock Holmes stories where Holmes takes justice into his own hands for one reason or another. Thanks for posting the review! I’ve got you added on the Progress/Review site.

  • I just finished a Chesterton book, Ten Adventures of Father Brown. I will be doing a review on it later. I was going to read his other Father Brown books as I really enjoyed the style he brought to solving mysteries. I guess I’m now going to have to add this series as well. Thanks for the review.

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