Book Review: The Innocence of Father Brown

Father Brown's Innocence

Due in part to sullysgirl’s comment on one of my posts many moons ago, I picked up and began reading several Father Brown stories. Written by G. K. Chesterton, the stories focus on the crime-solving adventures of the intrepid Father Brown. Unlike “high-functioning sociopath” Mr. Holmes, Father Brown is approachable and friendly – but he has steel in his bones and a keen mind to match, or perhaps even outmatch, Mr. Holmes.

The volume of Father Brown material that I first read was, naturally, The Innocence of Father Brown. I enjoyed several stories more than the others and, though it has been some time since I last clapped eyes on a Father Brown tale, I think I can remember my favorites well enough to sketch an outline of them for you, readers.

The first Father Brown mystery I fell in love with is the first story G. K. Chesterton ever wrote for the daring little priest: The Blue Cross. Throughout the tale a French investigator tracks a famous French art thief named Flambeau through London since he received a tip that he will be there to steal a valuable artifact. A series of strange accidents – salt in the sugar containers at a restaurant, an upset cart of fruit, a broken window at a post office – lead him to two clerics walking through a park.

Other stories I enjoyed in the volume were The Queer Feet and The Flying Stars. In The Queer Feet, Father Brown must stop at the club of the Twelve Fisherman, a gentlemen’s association with some bizarre (to me, at least) dining habits. For instance, the group eats with gold utensils that have a pearl set in each piece of cutlery’s handle. These are stolen and subsequently rescued by Father Brown.

In The Flying Stars, at Christmas Father Brown visits a well-to-do family. The patriarch happens to be hosting a relative from Canada at the same time he (the patriarch) is holding in his possession three very valuable diamonds. The diamonds are called the Flying Stars because they have been stolen so often. The merrymaking for Christmas Day begins when the visitor from Canada suggests a pantomime – then disappears, as do the Flying Stars!

More stories in the volume which I enjoyed were The Invisible Man and The Hammer of God. I cannot recall much about why I enjoyed these, since The Invisible Man was about a postman who committed some crime (it may have been murder, I cannot recall now) while The Hammer of God was about a Minister who, while praying in the loft of his church, saw his brother of ill repute preparing to meet a married lady.

The final two stories in The Innocence of Father Brown which I found enjoyable are The Eye of Apollo and The Three Tools of Death. In The Eye of Apollo a man claiming to be a priest of the sun god Apollo takes up residence in an office building in London. Flambeau, now an honest tradesman, happens to be working in the building as a private investigator. Ever a gallant fellow, he has made the acquaintance of two young women who work in the building as well. The two are sisters.

But what sisters! The older woman is beautiful, forceful, and a follower/paramour of Apollo’s new priest, while the younger sister wears glasses and hunches over her work at her desk, bullied by her older sister. Flambeau likes the older sister very much, and is stunned when she falls to her death in an elevator shaft at the same moment Apollo’s priest has gone out on the balcony to publicly worship the sun.

In The Three Tools of Death a famous philanthropist and eternal optimist is found dead. His daughter’s fiancé is accused of murdering him, as he was found apparently trying to kill him with a knife, a pistol, and a noose. Who can read such a riddle? Father Brown sits down with the young fiancé, surrounded by the police, and finds the truth.

Some stories, readers, like good wine, get better with age. G. K. Chesterton’s Father Brown mysteries are such stories. I greatly enjoyed them, and I would hereby like to take the time to publicly and heartily thank sullysgirl for setting me on the road to reading them!

Until next time, readers!

The Mithril Guardian

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About The Mithril Guardian

I like stories.  Whether they’re on film, in song, or in print, I always remember a good story.  They remind me of paintings.  People cannot see them without learning something.  So it’s a good idea to look at a story from as many angles as possible.  I can watch the same movie a million times and still I will learn something that I did not know before.  Thoughts on the Edge of Forever is where I get to focus on what I learned from stories; what was not obvious the first time, the second time, or the umpteenth time. Earlier posts are written in the form of letters, usually to specific characters, to point out what I saw in a particular story or heard in a piece of music. Some of those letters, though, are like letters to the editor. Why did someone write a story this way and not another? Would the story have turned out better if the writer had done something different? These ‘letters to the editor’ will probably never be answered by the writers - the characters certainly will not answer anything - but their contents are still up for debate. After all, unless you ask a question, you will never get an answer. Still, civil ground rules apply. Any foul language or other form of abuse will not be tolerated in Thoughts on the Edge of Forever. I mean, who wants to be around the guest at the dinner party who is being nasty? Practically nobody, since people go to a party to have fun, not to hang around a grouch. So let’s have fun! The Mithril Guardian
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