The Complete Father Brown Stories by G. K. Chesterton

The Complete Father Brown Stories by G. K. Chesterton
The Complete Father Brown Stories by G. K. Chesterton. This edition Penguin 2012

For those unfamiliar with the character, Father Brown is a catholic priest who just also happens to be something of a successful detective. He appeared in over fifty short stories between 1910 and 1936, and is quite probably one of G. K. Chesterton’s most famous creations. As far as I’m aware (and according to the blurb on the cover), this volume brings together every single Father Brown story in print, and despite its somewhat daunting page count is, in my opinion, a fantastic addition to any fan of detective fiction.

Unlike the more commonly known Sherlock Holmes, Brown’s approach to detection relies more on intuition and spirituality rather than logic and deduction. In one of the stories he explains his approach by suggesting that in essence he himself had committed the crimes himself, particularly the murders; by imagining how the crimes might be undertaken he effectively becomes the criminal and is able to identify who from the array of suspects is the guilty party.

While it’s true to say that I genuinely enjoyed the Father Brown stories, I did find them a little difficult to get to grips with, though I think this is more due to the writing style than the content. This isn’t to say that Chesterton is a bad writer, but just the opposite; he is an excellent wordsmith and plays with the language with remarkable aptitude, and I think it’s this that stops these stories from being five minute reads and turns them into complex works of art that demand your full attention. Every sentence is crammed full of information and meaning, and you really need to keep your attention on what’s being fed to you in order to keep up with the story. This, for me, is what makes these stories so captivating almost a century after they were first penned.

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