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The Innocence of Father Brown (The Father Brown Stories Book 1) Kindle Edition
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“Father Brown has a sharp clerical brain, a feeling for the turn of the screw, and an unastounded sense of the human drama.” —V. S. Pritchett
About the Author
- ASIN : B00MF0ZVUC
- Publisher : MysteriousPress.com/Open Road (August 26, 2014)
- Publication date : August 26, 2014
- Language : English
- File size : 3065 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 122 pages
- Lending : Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #630,482 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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While I enjoy mysteries immensely, I am not a connoisseur of the genre. In a sense, I am not even “trained” to read whodunits: I do not try to figure out who in fact did it as I read, I simply let the story lead me to the conclusion. I like the Sherlock Holmes stories, of which I’ve read a handful, and Poe’s detective fiction (especially “The Gold Bug”), but for the most part I go for noir: James M. Cain, Horace McCoy, and above all, Raymond Chandler’s novels (no Hammett for me, thank you). I like authors who employ elements of mystery for their own purposes, such as Camus or Modiano. I love Borges, and thought his (and Bioy Casares’) idea of a detective who solves crimes from a prison cell was brilliant, but the actual stories failed to move me.
My positive response to the Father Brown stories came as no surprise to me. It seems to me that both enthusiasts of mystery and readers who are new to the genre can enjoy Chesterton’s detective fiction. These stories also transcend religious affiliation. Sharing Chesterton’s faith and worldview may give you a fuller appreciation of the stories’ implications, but these tales are meant to be enjoyed by readers of all faiths or no faith. Fr. Brown does take advantage of the opportunity to preach, but he is such an agreeable character: it is impossible for him to offend. Here is a detective with a philosophy, and his strength is that, thanks to the Catholic sacrament of Reconciliation, he has learned quite a bit about human beings, the things they do, and the motives that drive them. He has come not only to a knowledge, but also to an understanding of human nature. His method (as the Wikipedia article points out) is not deductive, but intuitive.
Most of the stories included in this volume feature Fr. Brown’s sidekick, because all detectives must have one: Flambeau. He is a thief who eventually repents, embraces Catholicism, and becomes an amateur detective. The priest’s enigmatic observations often exasperate him.
I will comment on the 12 stories included in this Fr. Brown collection, the first of five, which appeared in book form in 1911. I also include, at the end of each commentary, my personal judgment (**** = Excellent, *** = Very Good, ** = Good, * = Poor). The symbol # indicates Borges included the story in the Chesterton volume for his “biblioteca personal,” the best books he ever read.
* The Blue Cross: the story that introduced Fr. Brown, and Flambeau, to the world. The priest carries a valuable silver cross with blue sapphires, which Flambeau hopes to steal. A French detective, Aristide Valentin, is trying to catch Flambeau in London. A great beginning, especially when one considers the final talk between Fr. Brown and Flambeau. The priest’s comments help the reader to understand why he is so good at solving crimes. It is here that Fr. Brown says: “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?” **** #
* The Secret Garden: During a gathering, the body of an unknown man is found in a closed garden with its head severed. The chief of police, the atheist Aristide, is present, and the first suspect is an American skeptic, who leaves the premises when everyone was ordered to stay at the place. It has been said that one way to read the Fr. Brown stories is as apologias. This tale is a very good example. *** #
* The Queer Feet: the story begins with a description of a select group of gentlemen who dine at a specific hotel. Fr. Brown’s profession takes him to the place right before the silverware disappears. Like “The Invisible Man,” this story contains direct social commentary. Perhaps most interestingly, meta-mystery is involved, as the conventions of the genre are discussed within the story. Listen to this description of death: “a very aged rioter and demagogue who breaks into the most refined retreats with the dreadful information that all men are brothers.” Look out also for the “unseen hook” and “invisible line” of Catholicism, which can bring back those who have been “caught" no matter how far away they are. **** #
* The Flying Stars: three diamonds (the “stars” of the title) are stolen during a Christmas pantomime. One of the characters is a socialist, which gives Chesterton the opportunity to criticize this political view. My least favorite of the stories in the collection. *
* The Invisible Man: as I mentioned, this was the first text I read by GKC. Perhaps I am biased, but I still think it is one of his best stories. If someone asked me where to start with Fr. Brown, “The Invisible Man” would be my reply, without hesitation. This is simply an amazing tale involving robots, letters, marriage proposals, and the things we do not notice because they are too evident. **** #
* The Honour of Israel Gow: set in Scotland. The man of the title is a methodic servant whose master has just died. As they investigate the master’s death, Flambeau and Fr. Brown find a series of apparently random objects. There is a parody of deduction (the Holmes method) when Fr. Brown “interprets” the possible connections between the items. As in “The Secret Garden” and, in a sense, “The Invisible Man,” there is a missing head here too. I’m reminded of an observation from _Orthodoxy_: “It is easy to be a madman: it is easy to be a heretic. It is always easy to let the age have its head; the difficult thing is to keep one’s own” (107, in the Ignatius edition). ** #
* The Wrong Shape: A poet with a taste for things oriental dies leaving a message: “I die by my own hand, but I am murdered.” The wrong shape refers to a Chinese dagger and to pieces of paper with their corners cut, which the poet liked to use. At one point, Fr. Brown calls Flambeau his only friend. **
* The Sins of Prince Saradine: Fr. Brown and Flambeau visit a prince who lives on a “fairy-tale” island. The prince has invited Flambeau because he admires the criminal he used to be, especially his trick of getting one detective to arrest another. Fr. Brown knows that fairyland is a wonderful place where terrible things can also happen. Another favorite story of mine, this one involves a duel, look-alikes, and tricks with mirrors. I loved the image of the tapestry, which can be used as metaphor for our earthly life: “We here are on the wrong side of the tapestry. […] The things that happen here do not seem to mean anything; they mean something somewhere else.” ****
* The Hammer of God: the story concerns two brothers, one of whom is a pastor, and the other a drunkard. The latter wants to seduce the blacksmith’s wife, but he is soon found dead, his head destroyed by the blow of a small hammer. The blacksmith is an obvious suspect, but he was out of town when the murder happened. The village idiot is another possibility. A great story with great philosophy. “Humility is the mother of giants,” says Fr. Brown. **** #
* The Eye of Apollo: Flambeau is moving to his new office. Among his new neighbors are two typists who are sisters and the leader of a new religion who describes himself as a priest of Apollo. Chesterton comments on cults based on human “self-liberation” and (more subtly) on feminism and/or the modern “working woman” (I use quotation marks because this common phrase seems to imply that there was a time when women did not work). *** #
* The Sign of the Broken Sword: Fr. Brown and Flambeau see the statue of a local hero who holds a broken sword. The priest proceeds to tell the story behind the statue as he and his friend walk around the area. I had trouble following this one. There were too many details for my taste, and Fr. Brown is not directly involved in the events but goes back in history. Here’s a good observation, at any rate: “It is useless for a man to read his Bible unless he also reads everybody else’s Bible.” Also, look out for Fr. Brown’s thought-provoking decision at the end. **
* The Three Tools of Death: a lecturing teetotaler is found dead. The weapon may have been a rope, a gun, or a dagger. As Fr. Brown knows, things are not what they seem. Teetotalism, it is well known, was another favorite target of GKC’s, and one of the many areas in which he disagreed with his friend George Bernard Shaw. As someone who does not drink, I side with GBS on this one, but I still love this story. Like the previous one, it ends with a interesting decision on Fr. Brown’s part. ***
I once had a non-Catholic coworker who had Chesterton’s complete works in his office. His favorite books were Chesterton’s famous collections of brief essays on anything and everything. “His Catholicism I can take or leave,” my coworker said. I didn’t say anything, but thought to myself, “You can definitely take it, but you can’t leave it.” If you “leave” GKC’s Catholicism, what is left? Chesterton once said, and I am paraphrasing, that it was impossible for a Catholic to write (or to do anything) without showing that he/she was a Catholic. Chesterton is a great writer largely because (not in spite) of his Catholicism. I have enjoyed the work of authors who disagree with and sometimes even hate or attack my faith. I hope you will enjoy these stories whether you agree with Chesterton or not.
My next book by GKC will be either _All Things Considered_ or _Tremendous Trifles_.
Thanks for reading, and enjoy the book!
In any case, if you enjoy detective stories you should be entertained by the sleuthing capabilities of Father Brown.
Top reviews from other countries
If it has been some time since you last read any Father Brown tales you may have forgotten how good they are and for those new to them this book will be a treat to read that will probably lead you on to reading all the stories. All Father Brown tales are short stories and are good little puzzles for you to get your head around, which is one of the reasons I suppose that they have always remained so popular, that and the fact that the amateur detective is just an unassuming Catholic priest. Well written and enjoyable to read, whether Father Brown is solving a murder, a theft, or other types of mysteries these are all well worth reading.
I feel I should point out that although there is no table of contents listed in the 'Go To' menu there is in reality one. If you click back from the beginning of this you will find it, so it is quick and easy to find any particular story that you may want to read.
And whilst part of my anticipation was merited due to the inventive and ingenious premises that Chesterton employs, I found that the quality of prose was somewhat lacking. It felt as though it were rambling in places and the genius of Father Brown was lost amidst tiresome descriptions of scenes or characters.
Flambeau and Father Brown were both incredibly interesting protagonists with a considerable amount of depth to their personalities; I only wish that Chesterton had not hid neither his characters nor his considerably inventive and clever storylines in plodding prose.
I would recommend this for a read if you are interested in early crime fiction but I probably won't choose to read any more of Chesterton's work.