Saturday, December 17, 2011

Chesterton's Catholic Brown (or Brown Catholic?)

The Wichita branch of the American Chesterton Society met last night at Eighth Day Books. We had read and discussed the first five stories in the anthology of G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown mystery stories published by Ignatius Press: Father Brown of the Church of Rome, edited with an introduction by John Peterson. We will finish up the second five in January 2012. If you're ever in Wichita, Kansas, you have to visit Eighth Day Books!

According to the publisher:

This is a unique collection of ten of Chesterton's famous Father Brown stories which puts special emphasis on the role that Brown's Catholic faith played in helping him solve the murder mysteries. As Dorothy Sayers once wrote, Chesterton was "the first man of our time to introduce the great name of God into a detective story ... to enlarge the boundaries of the detective story by making it deal with death and real wickedness and real, that is to say, divine judgment."

This paperback Father Brown edition includes generous footnotes (not available in other editions) which help to clarify the literary and historical allusions made by Father Brown. It is based on the texts of the original editions by Chesterton for assurance of complete authenticity, and is set in easily readable type.

These are excellent short detective yarns in the classic British tradition of Sherlock Holmes - puzzling concoctions of mysterious crimes, dubious suspects and ambiguous clues. They are among the very best of the Father Brown stories.

All of the stories turn on the anti-Catholicism of those around Father Brown--they usually mock his religion, his vocation, his integrity and intelligence. Then he solves the mystery at hand, usually by reference to his Catholic religion and sometimes even to his vocation, always displaying his intelligence and integrity.

The stories in the collection are:

1. The Chief Mourner of Marne
2. The Red Moon of Maru
3. The Miracle of Moon Crescent
4. The Resurrection of Father Brown
5. The Man with Two Beards
6. The Curse of the Golden Cross
7. The Secret Garden
8. The Flying Stars
9. The Honour of Israel Gow
10. The Insoluble Problem

The notes explain some terms and historical concepts--but there is one flagrant error. The editor confuses Mary I of England and Mary, Queen of Scots on page 220 in the penultimate story!

Chesterton's stories are always filled with spectacle and screen-setting that provide both the clues and the red herrings that leave the others involved in the mystery dumbfounded. Father Brown uses his knowledge of fallen human nature, his observations of the scene, and his sense of what is ridiculous or incongruous to uncover what is true.

Black and Brown and read all over: Very enjoyable!


  1. Love Father Brown, love Sherlock Holmes, Love Dorothy Sayer's Lord Peter Wimsey!

    Stephanie - Great news, glad tidings! Remember your post on Martyr John Storey and I referred you to the post about Fr. Michael Storey mentoring the Anglican congregation of St. John the Evangelist in Calgary, Alberta Canada?
    News update:

    And so it begins!

  2. Thank you for the update! Exciting news!