The Complete Father Brown: Volume 1, by G.K. Chesteron
What kind of person would enjoy a book like this? What kind of reader is this book aimed at? Well, this volume (and a second one) is published by an imprint called Boomer Books that appears to be making books that are easy to read for people who are nearsighted and who have an interest in reading a lengthy collection of short stories written by G.K. Chesterton. Now, while I have never appreciated being labeled as a Boomer, this volume was definitely something that I appreciated reading and it was certainly a good and enjoyable volume to read as far as it goes, and a quick and enjoyable read of mystery stories with Christian themes is something that a great many people can appreciate. Not everyone is going to like these stories–some of the stories are wildly improbable, and filled with fantasy elements, and those with a low tolerance for the Catholic worldview are going to have a low tolerance for the author’s viewpoints. As the book goes on one can see the author attempting to broaden his focus so as to let the reader not see the same sort of thing happening over and over again.
This particular book is about 400 pages long and contains no annotations and the complete stories for the first two Father Brown books. This includes the following stories from The Innocence Of Father Brown: “The Blue Cross,” “The Secret Garden,” “The Queer Feet,” “The Flying Stairs,” “The Invisible Man,” “The Honour Of Israel Gow,” “The Wrong Shape,” “The Sins Of Prince Sardine,” “The Hammer Of God,” “The Eye Of Apollo,” “The Sign Of The Broken Sword,” and “The Three Tools Of Death.” It also includes the following stories from The Wisdom Of Father Brown: “The Absence Of Mr. Glass,” “The Paradise Of Thieves,” “The Duel Of Dr. Hirsch,” “The Man In The Passage,” “The Mistake Of The Machine,” “The Head Of Caesar,” “The Purple Wig,” “The Perishing Of The Pendragons,” “The God Of The Gongs,” “The Salad Of Colonel Cray,” “The Strange Crime Of John Boulnois,” and “The Fairy Tale Of Father Brown.” In many of these stories we see the expansion of Father Brown’s area of traveling–he is not nearly as settled as a “Father” should be, but that might be pretty boring so the author does not do so. Instead we get some shrewd psychological appreciations from a man who is a master of practical psychology because of the joys of oracular confession
By and large I enjoyed these stories. I cannot say that I thought all of the stories to be compelling, and this book is not quite as interesting to read as a Brother Cadfael story would be. All things considered, though, this is a pleasant mystery series and Father Brown’s ability to understand motives is worthwhile and striking. If you read these stories, and if you have read the Sherlock Holmes mysteries, upon which these stories depend at least in part, you have an idea of what is going on with Brown being wise and also the sort of person it is easy to ignore if you are so inclined as being not very worldly wise because he is a Catholic priest of rather admittedly unsettled habits. And that is something that can be quite intriguing to read and easy to enjoy if you have the right mindset, but the reader must be prepared for Chesterton’s strange tolerance, where a French thief can be an easy confidant because he is Catholic and has reformed himself but where the author feels free to malign blacks, Jews, and Calvinists with impunity, which is not something that will meet the contemporary prejudices of many readers.