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.
TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Peter Lik: The self-proclaimed 'fine-art photographer' whose work sells for millions
The best underrated Christmas movies from Love, Actually to While You Were Sleeping
Grace Dent on TV: The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies was a beautifully shot, immensely considered drama
The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies, review: Jason Watkins is brilliant, but real victim Joanna Yeates is reduced to a footnote
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre