Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Innocence of Father Brown by G.K. Chesterton

The Innocence of Father Brown, in the collection, The Father Brown Omnibus
by G.K. Chesterton

Published in 1911, The Innocence of Father Brown is the first collection of G.K Chesterton’s short stories featuring the priest/detective. The dozen stories in this collection, all originally published in The Saturday Evening Post in 1910 and 1911, would be considered “cozies” in mystery circles today (in fact, some claim that Chesterton created the category with these stories), though some of the stories hardly qualify as mysteries at all in the usual sense of the word. The stories are rightly considered classics, but they differ from other mysteries in ways that may make them more appealing to general readers than to devoted mystery fans.

Even calling Father Brown a “detective” is stretching definitions. He never claims to be a detective in these stories, and he is more concerned with the criminals’ repentance than with seeing them brought to justice – reflecting Chesterton’s own view of the world (though these stories were published years before his own conversion to Catholicism). Father Brown relies as much on his knowledge of human nature, derived from his clerical experience, as he does on observation and deduction, though he nonetheless always emphasizes reason – again, reflecting Chesterton’s own character and perspective.
Father Brown’s character is only lightly sketched out in these stories, with hardly any information about his background; what background is given is not always consistent from one story to another. This applies as well to the character of Flambeau, the criminal in the early stories who reforms to become Father Brown’s friend and crime-solving colleague in the later stories.

Highly recommended, with the caveat that the stories may not appeal to some mystery readers.

[ Wikipedia page for Father Brown ]

Recommended by Peter J.
Virtual Services Department

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