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 reviewBroadcasting House was preparing for a visit from Prince Charles spoiler alert
Glastonbury Michael Eavis reveals final headline act 'most likely' British pair
Film Ewan McGregor joins star-studded Beauty and the Beast cast as Lumiere
TVThe Island with Bear Grylls under fire after male contestants kill and eat rare crocodile
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
- 2 Frank Lampard's face drops when Holly Willoughby introduces him as a 'Man City legend'
- 3 UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
- 4 Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
- 5 General Election 2015: Stephen Hawking says he will vote Labour
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
Andrew Lloyd Webber: Phantom of the Opera writer mocked after issuing a warning about Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon
General election 2015: Labour will toughen hate crimes legislation surrounding Islamophobia
HSBC review into moving headquarters from UK 'underway'