5.0 out of 5 stars A treasure trove!
Other authors may have excelled in the detective story, but it was G.K. Chesterton who elevated it to a higher intellectual and literary level. His writing combines wit, humor and whimsy with deep insights into psychology, philosophy, and even theology. While others viewed the detective story as a mere entertaining puzzle, G.K. treated it as a serious art form, with...
Published on June 21 2004
3.0 out of 5 stars good read
it was very interesting to read stories set in a time when there really was not a lot of violence or sex to sell a good story.
Published 3 months ago by Mary-Lou Bush
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3.0 out of 5 stars good read,
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This review is from: The Complete Father Brown Mysteries [Annotated, With Introduction, Rare Additional Material] (Kindle Edition)it was very interesting to read stories set in a time when there really was not a lot of violence or sex to sell a good story.
4.0 out of 5 stars Much more capable than he appears,
This review is from: Penguin Complete Father Brown (Paperback)There are some characters or stories whom everybody knows. Even those who have not actually read the works have at least heard of Sherlock Holmes, or War of the Worlds, or The Lord of the Rings. There is one fictional "detective" who may not be quite as well known as Holmes (although he comes close), but has certainly delighted generations of readers. In a sense, Father Brown is the antithesis of Holmes. While we are made aware, at every turn, of Holmes' brilliance, of Brown we are told: "He had a face round and dull as a Norfolk dumpling; he had eyes as empty as the North Sea; he had several brown-paper parcels which he was quite incapable of collecting." (p. 10)
Yet despite his harmless appearance, Brown correctly fingers the criminal in every case. (This appeals to my love of people or things which are much more capable than they appear.) But another thing which appeals to me about Father Brown is that his religious faith, which seems to be such a handicap to his opponents, is one of the keys to his success. Time and again, a sceptical criminal underestimates him, and tries to trip him up with mystical mumbo-jumbo, on the assumption that anyone dumb enough to believe in God will fall for any old line. But it is precisely because he believes in God that Brown will not fall for "any old line." A sceptic may, on a dark and stormy night, in a creaking old house, have a hard time maintaining unbelief in vampires and goblins. For a Christian, such creatures cannot exist. (In fact, a survey taken a few years ago showed -- much to the surprise of the surveyors -- that Christians are much less likely to believe in assorted "paranormal phenomena" than are self-avowed atheists.)
So perhaps you can understand the pleasure I take in reading the Father Brown stories: Brown is successful, not in spite of his faith, but because of it. The Complete Father Brown collects all of the Father Brown stories in one (large-ish) volume. The only problem now is remembering to stop reading before the sun comes up.
5.0 out of 5 stars A treasure trove!,
By A Customer
This review is from: Penguin Complete Father Brown (Paperback)Other authors may have excelled in the detective story, but it was G.K. Chesterton who elevated it to a higher intellectual and literary level. His writing combines wit, humor and whimsy with deep insights into psychology, philosophy, and even theology. While others viewed the detective story as a mere entertaining puzzle, G.K. treated it as a serious art form, with potential for symbolism and allegory. Father Brown is one of the classic fictional detectives of all time, a character more "real" than many living people. How wonderful to have all the Father Brown stories under one cover! Keep this volume by your bedside or near your favorite armchair, so you can dip into it on a rainy weekend, before you go to bed, or at any time you like. All confirmed Father Brown devotees must have the Penguin COMPLETE FATHER BROWN, and those who have not yet discovered this detective genius could find no better way to become acquainted with him.
5.0 out of 5 stars Read Chesterton!,
By A Customer
This review is from: Penguin Complete Father Brown (Paperback)I wish to comment on George Orwell's denunciation of Chesterton, quoted by one of the other reviewers. I think this comment is unfortunate coming as it does from a writer who was supposedly a champion of freedom and democracy. Orwell regrettably confuses sincere expounding of religious faith with political propaganda! Then he implies that being a Catholic is incompatible with being a man of intellect! I suppose that to Orwell the Catholic Church was just another big, bad totalitarian organization like Communist Russia. Fortunately, the Church's "propagandists" like Chesterton use the weapons of reason and logic to win people over. While he denounced dictatorships in his writings, Orwell appears to have turned into a little dictator himself with this little quote. Read Chesterton, including his wonderful detective stories! In becoming a spokesman for the Catholic Church, he did not suppress his intellect, but on the contrary used it to the fullest.
5.0 out of 5 stars Eminently readable and witty...,
This review is from: Penguin Complete Father Brown (Paperback)This book compiles some short detective stories, with an unlikely protagonist, a priest. Father Brown is a rather quiet main character, unpretentious but remarkably assured. He uses logic in order to solve his cases, and he makes abundant use of good judgment and sound sense. Father Brown has an unique "worldly shrewdness", that probably stems from the fact that he spends many hours each day listening to the sins of other people. As a result, he is more or less acquainted with the bad side of human beings.
Father Brown is considered by many "the second most famous mystery-solver in English literature", the first being Sherlock Holmes. To tell the truth, I prefer Father Brown to Sherlock Holmes: he might not be as showy as Conan Doyle's character, but he is far more likeable, and his stories seem more likely to be real. Moreover, Chesterton's Father Brown doesn't just chase criminals, he allows the reader to learn about some interesting themes that were important when these stories were first published, but that also are important now, for example the relationship between faith and reason. He manages to that because he doesn't merely want to "catch the criminal", he also endeavors to understand human nature, and the reasons why a criminal becomes one.
The author of these mystery stories was Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936), a renowned English writer who wrote them between 1911 and 1936. His stories are as popular now as they were then, mainly to to the fact that Chesterton's style is compelling and refreshing, eminently readable and witty. Thus, these stories appeal not only to those who want to read a good book written in an exceptionally good english, but also to those who want to do exactly that without having to exhert themselves.
On the whole, I think this collection of short stories is worth buying and reading, not only once but many times. I highly enjoyed it, and I strongly recommend it to you :)
5.0 out of 5 stars Very refreshing examples of crime genre,
This review is from: Complete Father Brown Stories (Paperback)The mystery story is exemplified by the Sherlock Holmes stories. Those who haven't read them will probably know much about them from the way they have (justly) been added to the public imagination. So a good way of describing the Father Brown stories is to compare the two, as the images of Holmes are probably known to all.
Holmes is a private detective. As such, his main objective is to solve the crime. Father Brown is (obviously) a Catholic priest. His objective is to serve God by trying to better society. These two goals say a lot about how they go about solving crimes. Unlike Holmes, Brown gets close to crimes by accident (yes, that's a big suspension-of-disbelief) - as they happen amongst the families and coworkers of friends. He does not seek to "catch" the crook for the police but rather to find out what happened. At times, he lets the criminal go - and unlike the grumpy Holmes his speech (full of philosophical discussions) and actions reek of a love of humanity.
Holmes solves by logical deduction. Brown solves by a combination of intiution and a deep insight into character and circumstance. As such, the crux of many of the stories is psychological. Others rely on assumptions that people make about, say, people subservient to them. The Brown stories are therefore great satires of the early 20th century London society.
This edition has 18 stories - a quite eclectic collection and very recommended if you haven't encountered Brown before. The first one (the Blue Cross) introduces him marvelously as one of the great detectives.
4.0 out of 5 stars The power of quiet observation,
This review is from: Penguin Complete Father Brown (Paperback)A crime has occurred, often (though not always) a murder. As authorities and observers attempt to solve the mystery, often arriving at a false solution, meekly in the background is a humble, unassuming priest. Using his knowledge of the criminal mind, and often bringing to bear theology (because unsound theology is the basis of moral failure), the unnoticed priest arrives at the solution. Each time one comes to the end of these short mysteries, the reader realizes that there is some small detail that he or she missed, which was not missed by Father Brown. Thus is displayed the power of quiet observation. These short stories make for some good bedtime reading, and even profound theological reflection. The only reason I gave this volume four stars instead of five is that mystery is not personally my favorite genre. Even non-mystery lovers can enjoy these stories much as I have.
4.0 out of 5 stars Quirky, bargain-priced fun.,
This review is from: Complete Father Brown Stories (Paperback)If you enjoy Agatha Christie's Miss Marple, I think you will appreciate Father Brown. This edition is a great bargain-priced introduction.
Father Brown is the archetypal bumbler who is actually quite adept at finding out who committed the crime. He is the ordinary citizen who beats the police at their own game.
I got addicted to short stories about 35 years ago when I was at high school. I began reading them in the yellow-covered Gollancz science fiction short story collections. There is something to be said for a story that you can read at a sitting.
Chesterton's stories are now public domain. You can sample them online, but it is much nicer to have a book to browse away from the computer!
And this is such an unbeatable price, I am buying several copies to give as excellent, but inexpensive gifts.
5.0 out of 5 stars The theological equal of Sherlock Holmes.,
This review is from: Penguin Complete Father Brown (Paperback)In the genre of the finely crafted English detective story, Chesterton's "Father Brown" stories are wholesome and stimulating detective tales surpassed by few others, except perhaps Doyle's legendary Sherlock Holmes. In contrast to the arrogant Holmes, however, Chesterton's protagonist is rather quiet, unassuming and modest, and makes an unlikely hero - a catholic priest. Father Brown's simple manner makes you quick to underestimate him, but the startling flashes of brilliance that spill from beneath his humble exterior soon make you realize that he has a firm grasp on the truth of a situation when you are as yet frustratingly distant from it. His perceptive one-liners make it evident that he has a clear insight into something that you see only as an apparently insoluble paradox.
Chesterton has been called the "prince of paradox", and the Father Brown stories are a clear testimony of his fondness for paradox. Ultimately it is not just crimes that Brown must solve, but the paradox underlying them. In fact, not all stories are crime stories - among them are mysterious situations that do not involve criminals, and it is the perceptive insight of Father Brown that is needed make apparent contradictions comprehensible by his ruthless logic. Father Brown is not so much concerned with preserving life or bringing a criminal to justice as he is with unravelling the strands of an impossible paradox. In fact, Chesterton's conception of Father Brown is itself a paradox - both a cleric and a crime-fighter, a priest and a policeman, a representative of God's mercy and an instrument of God's justice, a proclaimer of forgiveness and a seeker of guilt, a listener in the confessional and a questioner in the interrogation.
How a priest could possibly play the role of a detective is explained in the first story, "The Blue Cross". Brown apprehends the confounded criminal Flambeau and explains that his knowledge of the criminal mind is due in part to what he's heard at the confessional booth "We can't help being priests. People come and tell us these things." When Flambeau retorts "How in blazes do you know all these horrors?" Chesterton allows his humble priest to attribute his insight into human depravity to his experience as a priest: "Oh, by being a celibate simpleton, I suppose, he said. Has it never struck you that a man who does next to nothing but hear men's real sins is not likely to be wholly unaware of human evil."
But both Chesterton and Father Brown have insight into much more than just human depravity - they are both champions of Catholic orthodoxy. This gives the Father Brown stories a depth not found in Brown's compatriot Holmes. In the course of Chesterton's stories, we are treated to philosophical discussions about catholic theology, such as the relationship between faith and reason. We do not merely meet an assortment of cobblers, blacksmiths, magistrates and generals, but atheists, legalists, secularists, pagans, Presbyterians, Puritans, Protestants and Catholics, all with varying and vying affections for superstition, naturalism, rationalism, scepticism, agnosticism, materialism, anarchism, nihilism, or cynicism. Along with C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, G.K. Chesterton was one of the few writers in the twentieth century that made an important contribution to English literature that was stamped by Christian principles instead of the prevailing secularism of the day.
Readers who do not share Chesterton's theological convictions will not concur with all his insights, but they must concede that they are enjoyable, profound and stimulating. Somewhat surprising is the occasional use of blasphemous expletives such as "O my God", although generally from the mouths of others than Father Brown himself. And Brown does seem to degenerate more and more into a mouthpiece for Chesterton, with a sermonizing tone not present in the first stories.
But on the whole these are exemplary models of the English crime short story. The Penguin edition contains all the stories from all five of Chesterton's published Father Brown collections. Among my favorites are "The Blue Cross", where Father Brown follows a mysterious trail of clues and engages in some bizarre behaviour and fascinating theological discourse to apprehend Flambeau. "The Hammer of God" is also an outstanding whodunnit, as Brown solves the murder of a man who has been crushed by a huge hammer outside a church, seemingly the recipient of a divine thunderbolt of judgment from heaven. In the process Chesterton shares some thought-provoking insights, such as the memorable: "Humility is the mother of giants. One sees great things from the valley; only small things from the peak." Also unforgettable is "The Blast of the Book", which recounts the mysterious disappearance of five men whose only crime was to open a seemingly magical book. Father Brown is quick to unravel the paradox by explaining it as the work of an ingenious prankster.
Father Brown's tongue never fails to produce profound paradoxical gems such as "The point of the pin was that it was pointless." And: "I never should have thought he would be so illogical as to die in order to avoid death." It is Brown's unique perspective that allows him to see what others do not see. When his compatriots are awed at the eloquence of a magistrate's thundering sermon in "the Mirror of the Magistrate", Father Brown remarks: "I think the thing that struck me most was how different men look in their wigs. You talk about the prosecuting barrister being so tremendous. But I happened to see him take his wig off for a minute, and he really looks quite a different man. He's quite bald, for one thing."
With the finely crafted prose, depth of theological insight, and brilliant combination of perception and paradox, Chesterton has created in Father Brown a noble and enduring character, a worthy successor to Sherlock Holmes and in some respects his equal and superior. The Father Brown stories are unquestionably worthy of their designation as classics.
5.0 out of 5 stars dry and witty,
By A Customer
This review is from: Penguin Complete Father Brown (Paperback)Father Brown is an intriguing and refreshing fictional detective. In addition to providing short glimpses into criminal puzzles, this book includes fascinating looks at the time period in which it was written (Father Brown meets the Futurists). Much more intelligent than many of the other entries into this genre, it also wasn't as dogmatically religious as I'd been lead to believe. I really enjoyed this book.
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Penguin Complete Father Brown by G K Chesterton (Paperback - Dec 1 1986)
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