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The crime-solving priest - Electric Pages
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Electric Pages
Date: 2009-01-28 22:54
Subject: The crime-solving priest
Security: Public
Tags:g_k_chesterton, mystery, short_stories, uk
The Wisdom of Father Brown (1929)
by G.K. Chesterton
200 pages - Penguin Books

This book contains 12 stories featuring Father Brown, G.K. Chesterton's Catholic priest who always finds himself in the midst of some crime, mystery, or puzzle, and proceeds to uncover the truth about events which leave others confused and befuddled. Though there are some crimes involved, other cases are simply misunderstandings, and some others are apparent curses that are eventually debunked.

I think my favourite story here is "The Purple Wig", which is told in the form of an article that an editor is reviewing for publication, and you not only get the story in the piece, but Chesterton makes some funny and apt observations about editors trying to shape and mold the general public's view of reality. Not every story here is fantastic, but enough of them are good enough to make the book a quality read overall. There are some wonderful passages of prose that made me realize what a good writer Chesterton was. Also, these are the sort of mysteries that allow the reader to make an educated guess as to what the solution is, before it is revealed at the end, and that has always been my favourite type of mystery story (as opposed to say, the Holmes stories by Doyle which, for all their other merits, often only present the key clue to the reader at the same time that Holmes is providing his final conclusion).

As an example of the fine writing, the opening paragraph of "The Head of Caesar": "There is somewhere in Brompton or Kensington an interminable avenue of tall houses, rich but largely empty, that looks like a terrace of tombs. The very steps up to the dark front doors seem steep as the sides of pyramids; one would hesitate to knock at the door, lest it should be opened by a mummy. But a yet more depressing feature in the grey façade is its telescopic length and changeless continuity. The pilgrim walking down it begins to think he will never come to a break or a corner; but there is one exception - a very small one, but hailed by the pilgrim almost with a shout. There is a sort of mews between two of the tall mansions, a mere slit like the crack of a door by comparison with the street, but just large enough to permit a pigmy ale-house or eating-house, still allowed by the rich to their stable-servants, to stand in the angle. There is something cheery in its very dinginess, and something free and elfin in its very insignificance. At the feet of those grey stone giants it looks like a lighted house of dwarfs."
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Caffyolay: Books - bookshop
User: caffyolay
Date: 2009-01-29 09:30 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Books - bookshop
I'm halfway through a book of Father Brown stories that I've been reading for quite some time. Like you said, some are great, some not so great but the quality of his writing has been the big surprise. Some of it is really quite evocative and even spooky. I'm not sure if he also wrote ghost stories, if not he really should have. I don't think I've come across the two stories you mention so much check in my book to see if they're there.

I did a short post about one of the stories here:

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Electric Pages
User: electric_pages
Date: 2009-01-31 13:41 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I don't think Chesterton wrote any out-and-out ghost stories.

For some reason, I really like the cover of that Wordsworth edition in your link.
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