- The Complete Father Brown Stories © 1910, 11, 12, 13, 14, 22, 23, 24, 26, 27, 35, 39, 51
- Dodd, Mead & Company © 1982
- xvii+993 pages
Father Brown, if you haven’t heard of him, is a portly priest who always finds himself in the middle of a mystery—usually a murder.
As Chesterton’s alterego, he solves crimes by understanding the fundamental makeup of the human personality. Never distracted by mystical hocus pocus, Father Brown unassumingly uncovers the details and motives deemed insignificant by others.
The Complete Father Brown contains all 51 Father Brown stories written, including five different collections (The Innocence, Wisdom, Incredulity, Secret, and Scandal of Father Brown) as well as a bonus story, “The Vampire of the Village”.
Reading these stories is like sinking into a comfortable chair. If you try to sneak in a quick story while on break at work, you’ll miss the charm of Chesterton’s style. Instead, you need to take time to deliberately take in each word in his florid sentences. If you don’t rush, his style is quite compelling. Take the first sentence in “The Absence of Mr. Glass” for example.
The consulting-rooms of Dr. Orion Hood, the eminent criminologist and specialist in certain moral disorders, lay along the seafront at Scarborough, in a series of very large and well-lighted French windows, which showed the North Sea like one endless outer wall of blue-green marble. (in The Wisdom of Father Brown)
For the Christian reader, there are occasional flashes of anthropological brilliance. I stopped to reread a particularly acute observation on more than a few occasions. Take this jewel in “The Sign of the Broken Sword” for example. Here Father Brown explains to his partner Flambeaux why Sir Arthur St. Clare’s Bible reading habit doesn’t make him innocent.
Sir Arthur St. Clare, as I have already said, was a man who read his Bible. That was what was the matter with him. When will people understand that it is useless for a man to read his Bible unless he also reads everybody else’s Bible? A printer reads a Bible for misprints. A Mormon reads his Bible, and finds polygamy; a Christian Scientist reads his, and finds we have no arms and legs. (in The Innocence of Father Brown)
I wish I knew a Christian sleuth today with the depth of Father Brown.