Series: Father Brown
Published by Wordsworth Classics on 1992 (first published 1911-1935)
Genres: Vintage Mystery
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Father Brown, one of the most quirkily genial and lovable characters to emerge from English detective fiction, first made his appearance in The Innocence of Father Brown in 1911. That first collection of stories established G.K. Chesterton's kindly cleric in the front rank of eccentric sleuths.
This collection contains 18 of the favourite Father Brown stories. They represent the quiet wit and compassion which is so different from his moody and caustic predecessor, Sherlock Holmes. Father Brown solves his mysteries by a mixture of intuition and sympathetic worldliness in a totally believable manner.
I finally got around to reading the only Father Brown book I have on my shelf. It’s a selection of stories from each of the collections.
Father Brown is easy to underestimate. In the first story of the collection, a police detective sees him as rather stupid and bumbling, which is the impression he gives most people at first meeting.
“There was … a very short Roman Catholic priest going up from a small Essex village… The little priest was so much the essence of those Eastern flats; he had a face as round and dull as a Norfolk dumpling; he had eyes as empty as the North Sea; he had several brown-paper parcels, which he was quite incapable of collecting… He had a large, shabby umbrella, which constantly fell on the floor. He did not seem to know which was the right end of his return ticket. He explained with a moon-calf simplicity to everybody in the carriage that he had to be careful, because he had something made of real silver “with blue stones” in one of his brown-paper parcels. His quaint blending of Essex flatness with saintly simplicity continuously amused the Frenchman till the priest arrived (somehow) at Tottenham with all his parcels, and came back for his umbrella.”
But behind that air of simplicity and placidity, Father Brown, as those who are close to him know, is intelligent and observant. He knows the worst men can do and still believes they can be saved. He’s humble and never puts others down. He’s just nicer than a lot of detectives.
The stories are all enjoyable. I like how we all see the clues, but only Father Brown manages to put it together. There’s a nice variety too, they don’t all follow the same outlines.
Now to watch the Father Brown tv series.