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on July 4, 2001
In the genre of the finely crafted English detective story, Chesterton's "Father Brown" stories are wholesome and stimulating detective tales surpassed by few others, except perhaps Doyle's legendary Sherlock Holmes. In contrast to the arrogant Holmes, however, Chesterton's protagonist is rather quiet, unassuming and modest, and makes an unlikely hero - a catholic priest. Father Brown's simple manner makes you quick to underestimate him, but the startling flashes of brilliance that spill from beneath his humble exterior soon make you realize that he has a firm grasp on the truth of a situation when you are as yet frustratingly distant from it. His perceptive one-liners make it evident that he has a clear insight into something that you see only as an apparently insoluble paradox.
Chesterton has been called the "prince of paradox", and the Father Brown stories are a clear testimony of his fondness for paradox. Ultimately it is not just crimes that Brown must solve, but the paradox underlying them. In fact, not all stories are crime stories - among them are mysterious situations that do not involve criminals, and it is the perceptive insight of Father Brown that is needed make apparent contradictions comprehensible by his ruthless logic. Father Brown is not so much concerned with preserving life or bringing a criminal to justice as he is with unravelling the strands of an impossible paradox. In fact, Chesterton's conception of Father Brown is itself a paradox - both a cleric and a crime-fighter, a priest and a policeman, a representative of God's mercy and an instrument of God's justice, a proclaimer of forgiveness and a seeker of guilt, a listener in the confessional and a questioner in the interrogation.
How a priest could possibly play the role of a detective is explained in the first story, "The Blue Cross". Brown apprehends the confounded criminal Flambeau and explains that his knowledge of the criminal mind is due in part to what he's heard at the confessional booth "We can't help being priests. People come and tell us these things." When Flambeau retorts "How in blazes do you know all these horrors?" Chesterton allows his humble priest to attribute his insight into human depravity to his experience as a priest: "Oh, by being a celibate simpleton, I suppose, he said. Has it never struck you that a man who does next to nothing but hear men's real sins is not likely to be wholly unaware of human evil."
But both Chesterton and Father Brown have insight into much more than just human depravity - they are both champions of Catholic orthodoxy. This gives the Father Brown stories a depth not found in Brown's compatriot Holmes. In the course of Chesterton's stories, we are treated to philosophical discussions about catholic theology, such as the relationship between faith and reason. We do not merely meet an assortment of cobblers, blacksmiths, magistrates and generals, but atheists, legalists, secularists, pagans, Presbyterians, Puritans, Protestants and Catholics, all with varying and vying affections for superstition, naturalism, rationalism, scepticism, agnosticism, materialism, anarchism, nihilism, or cynicism. Along with C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, G.K. Chesterton was one of the few writers in the twentieth century that made an important contribution to English literature that was stamped by Christian principles instead of the prevailing secularism of the day.
Readers who do not share Chesterton's theological convictions will not concur with all his insights, but they must concede that they are enjoyable, profound and stimulating. Somewhat surprising is the occasional use of blasphemous expletives such as "O my God", although generally from the mouths of others than Father Brown himself. And Brown does seem to degenerate more and more into a mouthpiece for Chesterton, with a sermonizing tone not present in the first stories.
But on the whole these are exemplary models of the English crime short story. The Penguin edition contains all the stories from all five of Chesterton's published Father Brown collections. Among my favorites are "The Blue Cross", where Father Brown follows a mysterious trail of clues and engages in some bizarre behaviour and fascinating theological discourse to apprehend Flambeau. "The Hammer of God" is also an outstanding whodunnit, as Brown solves the murder of a man who has been crushed by a huge hammer outside a church, seemingly the recipient of a divine thunderbolt of judgment from heaven. In the process Chesterton shares some thought-provoking insights, such as the memorable: "Humility is the mother of giants. One sees great things from the valley; only small things from the peak." Also unforgettable is "The Blast of the Book", which recounts the mysterious disappearance of five men whose only crime was to open a seemingly magical book. Father Brown is quick to unravel the paradox by explaining it as the work of an ingenious prankster.
Father Brown's tongue never fails to produce profound paradoxical gems such as "The point of the pin was that it was pointless." And: "I never should have thought he would be so illogical as to die in order to avoid death." It is Brown's unique perspective that allows him to see what others do not see. When his compatriots are awed at the eloquence of a magistrate's thundering sermon in "the Mirror of the Magistrate", Father Brown remarks: "I think the thing that struck me most was how different men look in their wigs. You talk about the prosecuting barrister being so tremendous. But I happened to see him take his wig off for a minute, and he really looks quite a different man. He's quite bald, for one thing."
With the finely crafted prose, depth of theological insight, and brilliant combination of perception and paradox, Chesterton has created in Father Brown a noble and enduring character, a worthy successor to Sherlock Holmes and in some respects his equal and superior. The Father Brown stories are unquestionably worthy of their designation as classics.
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on May 5, 2012
I have been reading Agatha Christie mysteries for years and noted in one of the biogrqphical sketches about her that she and Chesterton were contemporaries and collaborators. So when I finished a "Complete Collection" of Christie works which wss nowhere near complete, I decided to give Father Brown a try.

Based on another review, I understand that three key works are not included in this "complete" collection and while that is disappointing, I feel that I have already gotten my 99-cents worth. I have been reading this book for weeks...usually a story or two a night...and, according to my Kindle, I'm still only 46% through the collection.

So far I have been enthralled with Father Brown, a rumpled and humble version of Hercule Poirot. While Poirot is tidy, arrogant and opinionated, Father Brown is self-deprecating, courteous and quiet. But Father Brown's mind, like Poirot's, is a steel trap. And, like Poirot, Father Brown has a way of circumventing the obvious to zone in on hidden reality. Anyone who is a fan of Poirot certainly must be a fan of Father Brown.

The other reviewer who identified the missing works not included in this collection also recommended the "Complete Father Brown Mysteries [annotated,...]" and I assume that means the three missing works are included. While I'm happy with this version, I suspect I'll spend another 99-cents to get the annotated version in order to finish the entire Father Brown collection. I strongly recommend Father Brown and suggest that the annotated version might be a better choice for the same price.
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on December 28, 2011
Amazon has somehow confused two similar but separate books in the same listing. I was very disappointed to find that one of these "Complete" collections, the one with the color cover, leaves out at least three important Father Brown stories, including "The Donnington Affair" and "Mask of Midas." Without these it's really nothing you couldn't pick up for free at Gutenberg or other online book sites. For a more complete version I chose The Complete Father Brown Mysteries [Annotated, With Introduction, Rare Additional Material] (with the black-and-white cover).
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VINE VOICEon August 7, 2006
A friend of mine recently bought this omnibus volume as a gift for a lover of detective fiction. For that it's probably perfect. Having said that, I rather prefer the separate paperbacks of Father Brown's cases which consist of, I think, The Innocence, Incredulity, Wisdom, Secret and Scandal of Father Brown.

Why? Smaller to carry around and pass on to the next hungry reader. New readers can sample a few stories to see if these books are their cup of tea. The real reason, though, is if you get this big paperback it's too tempting to read right through the stories, one to the next, and quite soon you've devoured all the Father Brown. Of course, there are plenty of other Chesterton mysteries to go on to: Manalive, The Ball and the Cross, The Club of Queer Trades, The Man Who Was Thursday and Four Faultless Felons to name a few.

A while back on the History Channel I saw a documentary about how during the time of the Raj, before the independence of India, a group of British soldiers forged pictures of Indian "fakirs" climbing up ropes and mystically disappearing. Chesterton wrote his stories during the time of the Raj. He despised Imperialism and many of these short tales are concerned with debunking the "mystic East" and exposing just this sort of chicanery. In this regard Chesterton was prophetic, about a hundred years ahead of his time.

Of course there's often a corpse here and there as well since GKC was the first president of the Detection Club (the next president was Dorothy L. Sayers, author of the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries). Chesterton was a fan of Sir Connan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes mysteries, while at the same time disputing Doyle's belief in the spiritualism, ghosts and seances common in upper class Victorian circles. Therefore Chesterton's hero priest is a commoner and a skeptic as regards the spiritualist religion of the day. Which makes the Father Brown tales all the more intriguing.
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on December 18, 2007
This book was purchased based on the titles in the table of contents. However, this book is 277 pages and not the 800 pages it says. It is NOT the complete Father Brown Mysteries at all. A few of the stories like "The Flying Stars" and "The Absence of Mr.Glass" are not in this book. I am very disappointed since this was a Christmas gift.
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on May 1, 2004
This book compiles some short detective stories, with an unlikely protagonist, a priest. Father Brown is a rather quiet main character, unpretentious but remarkably assured. He uses logic in order to solve his cases, and he makes abundant use of good judgment and sound sense. Father Brown has an unique "worldly shrewdness", that probably stems from the fact that he spends many hours each day listening to the sins of other people. As a result, he is more or less acquainted with the bad side of human beings.
Father Brown is considered by many "the second most famous mystery-solver in English literature", the first being Sherlock Holmes. To tell the truth, I prefer Father Brown to Sherlock Holmes: he might not be as showy as Conan Doyle's character, but he is far more likeable, and his stories seem more likely to be real. Moreover, Chesterton's Father Brown doesn't just chase criminals, he allows the reader to learn about some interesting themes that were important when these stories were first published, but that also are important now, for example the relationship between faith and reason. He manages to that because he doesn't merely want to "catch the criminal", he also endeavors to understand human nature, and the reasons why a criminal becomes one.
The author of these mystery stories was Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936), a renowned English writer who wrote them between 1911 and 1936. His stories are as popular now as they were then, mainly to to the fact that Chesterton's style is compelling and refreshing, eminently readable and witty. Thus, these stories appeal not only to those who want to read a good book written in an exceptionally good english, but also to those who want to do exactly that without having to exhert themselves.
On the whole, I think this collection of short stories is worth buying and reading, not only once but many times. I highly enjoyed it, and I strongly recommend it to you :)
Belen Alcat
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on January 13, 2004
The mystery story is exemplified by the Sherlock Holmes stories. Those who haven't read them will probably know much about them from the way they have (justly) been added to the public imagination. So a good way of describing the Father Brown stories is to compare the two, as the images of Holmes are probably known to all.
Holmes is a private detective. As such, his main objective is to solve the crime. Father Brown is (obviously) a Catholic priest. His objective is to serve God by trying to better society. These two goals say a lot about how they go about solving crimes. Unlike Holmes, Brown gets close to crimes by accident (yes, that's a big suspension-of-disbelief) - as they happen amongst the families and coworkers of friends. He does not seek to "catch" the crook for the police but rather to find out what happened. At times, he lets the criminal go - and unlike the grumpy Holmes his speech (full of philosophical discussions) and actions reek of a love of humanity.
Holmes solves by logical deduction. Brown solves by a combination of intiution and a deep insight into character and circumstance. As such, the crux of many of the stories is psychological. Others rely on assumptions that people make about, say, people subservient to them. The Brown stories are therefore great satires of the early 20th century London society.
This edition has 18 stories - a quite eclectic collection and very recommended if you haven't encountered Brown before. The first one (the Blue Cross) introduces him marvelously as one of the great detectives.
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on February 24, 2011
If you like Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie, you will love Chesterton's Father Brown mysteries. They are classic stories which are fun to read and extremely well written.
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on July 3, 2001
In the genre of the finely crafted English detective story, Chesterton's "Father Brown" stories are wholesome and stimulating detective tales surpassed by few others, except perhaps Doyle's legendary Sherlock Holmes. In contrast to the arrogant Holmes, however, Chesterton's protagonist is rather quiet, unassuming and modest, and makes an unlikely hero - a catholic priest. Father Brown's simple manner makes you quick to underestimate him, but the startling flashes of brilliance that spill from beneath his humble exterior soon make you realize that he has a firm grasp on the truth of a situation when you are as yet frustratingly distant from it. His perceptive one-liners make it evident that he has a clear insight into something that you see only as an apparently insoluble paradox.
Chesterton has been called the "prince of paradox", and the Father Brown stories are a clear testimony of his fondness for paradox. Ultimately it is not just crimes that Brown must solve, but the paradox underlying them. In fact, not all stories are crime stories - among them are mysterious situations that do not involve criminals, and it is the perceptive insight of Father Brown that is needed make apparent contradictions comprehensible by his ruthless logic. Father Brown is not so much concerned with preserving life or bringing a criminal to justice as he is with unravelling the strands of an impossible paradox. In fact, Chesterton's conception of Father Brown is itself a paradox - both a cleric and a crime-fighter, a priest and a policeman, a representative of God's mercy and an instrument of God's justice, a proclaimer of forgiveness and a seeker of guilt, a listener in the confessional and a questioner in the interrogation.
How a priest could possibly play the role of a detective is explained in the first story, "The Blue Cross". Brown apprehends the confounded criminal Flambeau and explains that his knowledge of the criminal mind is due in part to what he's heard at the confessional booth "We can't help being priests. People come and tell us these things." (p.17) When Flambeau retorts "How in blazes do you know all these horrors?" Chesterton allows his humble priest to attribute his insight into human depravity to his experience as a priest: "Oh, by being a celibate simpleton, I suppose, he said. Has it never struck you that a man who does next to nothing but hear men's real sins is not likely to be wholly unaware of human evil." (p.18)
But both Chesterton and Father Brown have insight into much more than just human depravity - they are both champions of Catholic orthodoxy. This gives the Father Brown stories a depth not found in Brown's compatriot Holmes. In the course of Chesterton's stories, we are treated to philosophical discussions about catholic theology, such as the relationship between faith and reason. We do not merely meet an assortment of cobblers, blacksmiths, magistrates and generals, but atheists, legalists, secularists, pagans, Presbyterians, Puritans, Protestants and Catholics, all with varying and vying affections for superstition, naturalism, rationalism, scepticism, agnosticism, materialism, anarchism, nihilism, or cynicism. Along with C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, G.K. Chesterton was one of the few writers in the twentieth century that made an important contribution to English literature that was stamped by Christian principles instead of the prevailing secularism of the day.
Readers who do not share Chesterton's theological convictions will not concur with all his insights, but they must concede that they are enjoyable, profound and stimulating. Somewhat surprising is the occasional use of blasphemous expletives such as "O my God", although generally from the mouths of others than Father Brown himself. And Brown does seem to degenerate more and more into a mouthpiece for Chesterton, with a sermonizing tone not present in the first stories.
But on the whole these are exemplary models of the English crime short story. The "Wordsworth Classics" edition contains a selection of 18 favorite stories, with contributions from all five of Chesterton's published Father Brown collections. Among my favorites are "The Blue Cross", where Father Brown follows a mysterious trail of clues and engages in some bizarre behaviour and fascinating theological discourse to apprehend Flambeau. "The Hammer of God" is also an outstanding whodunnit, as Brown solves the murder of a man who has been crushed by a huge hammer outside a church, seemingly the recipient of a divine thunderbolt of judgment from heaven. In the process Chesterton shares some thought-provoking insights, such as the memorable: "Humility is the mother of giants. One sees great things from the valley; only small things from the peak." (p.91) Also unforgettable is "The Blast of the Book", which recounts the mysterious disappearance of five men whose only crime was to open a seemingly magical book. Father Brown is quick to unravel the paradox by explaining it as the work of an ingenious prankster.
Father Brown's tongue never fails to produce profound paradoxical gems such as "The point of the pin was that it was pointless." (p.273). And: "I never should have thought he would be so illogical as to die in order to avoid death." (p.264) It is Brown's unique perspective that allows him to see what others do not see. When his compatriots are awed at the eloquence of a magistrate's thundering sermon in "the Mirror of the Magistrate", Father Brown remarks: "I think the thing that struck me most was how different men look in their wigs. You talk about the prosecuting barrister being so tremendous. But I happened to see him take his wig off for a minute, and he really looks quite a different man. He's quite bald, for one thing." (p.222.) His words are frequently indicative of remarkable perception.
With the finely crafted prose, depth of theological insight, and brilliant combination of perception and paradox, Chesterton has created in Father Brown a noble and enduring character, a worthy successor to Sherlock Holmes and in some respects his equal and superior. The Father Brown stories are unquestionably worthy of their designation as classics.
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on December 14, 2009
Setting aside the person who mistook a complaint to the seller as a review and the reviews from the people who seem to be reviewing some other editions, I would like to assure buyers that The Wordsworth Classics Complete Father Brown Stories with the isbn number 9781853260032 is in fact the most complete collection on the market. Not only does it contain every single story from each of the individual collections, it also includes The Donnington Affair & Father Brown solves The Donnington Affair, a story never before included in any "complete" collection.

The merits of the stories have been well covered by other reviewers. This is being written solely as a corrective to inaccurate & misleading information.
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