BooksOfTheMoon

The Complete Father Brown Stories

By G.K. Chesterton

Rating: 3 stars

It’s possible that I read this book too quickly, but I must confess that it started to wear thin after a while. That’s somewhat understandable as this volume collects together five books of Father Brown stories, totalling fifty-two stories. I thoroughly enjoyed the early stuff, in The Innocence of Father Brown and The Wisdom of Father Brown, but it started to wear as it went on. There’s no denying that Chesterton is a fine writer; there is some delightful use of language here (again, more noticeable to me in the early volumes) but I did start to resent some of the straw men that Chesterton would set up in opposition to his detective. Every atheist was a shady, arrogant or nasty fellow; every scientist arrogantly dismissive of religion. Doing that cheapened the work for me. (aside: I wonder what Father Brown would make of today’s England of openly atheist public figures and inter-faith dialogue?)

According to the introduction, Chesterton, like Conan Doyle before him, grew tired of his detective after the first couple of volumes and put him to one side, only bringing him out after that when finance demanded it. I assume this is why the latter stories sparkle less than the earlier.

I have issues with the style of detection as well, in which the author rarely provides misdirected clues to the reader to allow them to “play along”. Brown seems to have “flashes of intuition” and a knowledge of psychology which allows him to realise who the perpetrator is without that whole tedious requirement for evidence. Perhaps that’s a little harsh, but it did often feel that the answer to the puzzle came out of nowhere at the end of the story.

So read these stories for the beautiful use of language, space them out and maybe skip the last couple of volumes.

Book details

ISBN: 9781853260032
Publisher: Wordsworth Editions Ltd
Year of publication: 1929

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