The Complete Father Brown Stories, By G.K.Chesterton
Mysteries unsolved by a sanctified English gumshoe
Not just a re-issue but a tie-in. A prefatory note informs us that it was "published to accompany the television series first broadcast on BBC One Daytime".
If rather tall for the "little Essex priest", Mark Williams imbued the character with a fervent innocence as he did for Ron Weasley's dad in the Harry Potter films. It is a potent role, as a previous incumbent discovered. When a French child mistook Alec Guinness for a real priest while making the 1954 film Father Brown, it initiated the actor's conversion to Catholicism.
Though the sanctified gumshoe has joined the canon of eccentric English 'tecs – Miss Marple, Lord Peter Wimsey, Albert Campion – it is questionable if afternoon viewers will find themselves enthralled by the Father Brown on the page. Chesterton's main interest is in the creation of an elaborate "locked door" mystery, to be unpicked by his protagonist who pops up on the final page. The story entitled "The Unsoluble Problem" is an extreme example. "The murder cannot be solved," said Father Brown, "because there is no murder to solve."
Maigret, an equally intuitive detective, still appeals due to atmosphere and concision but the Father Brown stories are verbose and unevocative. They are elevated by aphorism ("The criminal is the creative artist; the detective only the critic") and his hero's vocation. Such elements are linked in an otherwise plodding story called "The Queer Feet". Father Brown's explanation "I caught him with an unseen hook, and an invisible line which is long enough to let him wander to the ends of the world, and still to bring him back with a twitch upon the thread" was quoted by Waugh in Brideshead Revisited.
The best stories, such as "Hammer of God", combine a Cluedo-like yarn with theology. The wholly unpersuasive characters and far-from-assured method of murder may be accepted as conventions of the genre. After creating such an original detective it is unfortunate that Chesterton had little interest in Father Brown aside from being a vehicle for his own faith and ingenuity.
musicReview: Culture Club performs live for first time in 12 years
Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 This 'woman calls police to order pizza' story isn't going where you're expecting
- 2 Axe wielding man shot dead after attacking four New York policemen on busy street
- 3 Watch what happened when food critics were unknowingly served McDonald's
- 4 Jimmy Carr's Oscar Pistorius joke goes a bit too far at the Q Awards
- 5 Ottawa shootings: Bruce MacKinnon's cartoon is the perfect tribute to soldier Nathan Cirillo
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Thousands with degenerative conditions classified as 'fit to work in future' – despite no possibility of improvement
Attacks on 'Ukip Calypso' show how skewed people’s priorities are
Poppy Appeal 2014: This is why I won't be wearing a red poppy this year