Wednesday, 17 December 2008

The Best of Father Brown

Title: The Best of Father Brown

Author: G.K. Chesterton

Number of pages: 287

Started: 11 December 2008

Finished: 17 December 2008

Opening words:

FLAMBEAU, once the most famous criminal in France and later a very private detective in England, had long retired from both professions. Some say a career of crime had left him with too many scruples for a career of detection. Anyhow, after a life of romantic escapes and tricks of evasion, he had ended at what some might consider an appropriate address: in a castle in Spain. The castle, however, was solid though relatively small; and the black vineyard and green stripes of kitchen garden covered a respectable square on the brown hillside. For Flambeau, after all his violent adventures, still possessed what is possessed by so many Latins, what is absent (for instance) in so many Americans, the energy to retire. It can be seen in many a large hotel-proprietor whose one ambition is to be a small peasant. It can be seen in many a French provincial shopkeeper, who pauses at the moment when he might develop into a detestable millionaire and buy a street of shops, to fall back quietly and comfortably on domesticity and dominoes. Flambeau had casually and almost abruptly fallen in love with a Spanish Lady, married and brought up a large family on a Spanish estate, without displaying any apparent desire to stray again beyond its borders. But on one particular morning he was observed by his family to be unusually restless and excited; and he outran the little boys and descended the greater part of the long mountain slope to meet the visitor who was coming across the valley; even when the visitor was still a black dot in the distance.

Plot summary:

GK Chesterton’s quiet and unassuming little priest has long since joined the pantheon of great literary detectives. Combining the shrewdness of Miss Marple, the insight of Sherlock Holmes and the punctiliousness of Hercule Poirot with the deep and intuitive knowledge of the dark secrets of human nature gained in the confessional, Father Brown is the perhaps better equipped than any of them to uncover the startling truth whenever murder, mayhem and mystery stalk society.

Summary taken from the back of the book

What I thought:

These were quite pleasant tales but they didn’t really grab me. I found them all very similar – similar sorts of crimes and all solved in the same sort of way: Father Brown has some great insight into human nature and notices a few things and then despite everyone believing something different has an insight that gets to the truth merely based on observation. He felt like a less convincing version of Sherlock Holmes, which to some may well be sacrilege to say so, but I just constantly wanted something more, as it all felt a bit pedestrian. Perhaps I missed something, but these were meant to be the best cases with the more mundane or less well written ones omitted and I still felt there was something missing from these to make them about a detective (or expert on human nature) who I really engaged with.

You can read all the Father Brown stories here.

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