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Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Book Review: The Incredulity of Father Brown by G.K. Chesterton

Despite owning all the Father Brown stories, I'm taking my time reading them because I enjoy them so much. You can find my reviews of Innocence and Wisdom here and here but Incredulity is the third collection and feels as though it goes in a slightly different direction.

Location plays a big part in these stories with Father Brown encountering different cultures and, significantly, several of them are set in America. I like these explorations and it's amusing how Father Brown is never a fish out of water - he blends into the background of any community.

I enjoyed all the stories in this collection. However, some are more enjoyable than others, of course. 'The Resurrection of Father Brown' is the first story and begins with the cleric's death. It's a charming little story, made all the more enjoyable by his irritation at becoming a celebrity. 'The Arrow of Heaven' deals with the murder of a millionaire, a circumstance that 'is, for some reason, treated as a sort of calamity'. Chesterton, naturally, then proceeds to include three dead millionaires in his story. In 'The Oracle of the Dog' I was tickled by the resolution and the peculiar murder of Warren Wynd in 'The Miracle of Moon Crescent' had me completely perplexed for a time. While I enjoyed the sensory details and depictions in 'The Curse of the Golden Cross', that might've been the weakest story in terms of progression, for me anyway. 'The Dagger with Wings' is one of the more atmospheric pieces, although I was slightly disappointed with the ending, probably on grounds of personal preference.

The final two stories in the collection are my favourites. 'The Doom of the Darnaways' takes the old trope of a decaying British manor with a foreign heir and creates a memorable story revolving around a photograph. In that story, the last lines are typical of Father Brown and, perhaps, that's why I enjoyed it so much. Lastly, 'The Ghost of Gideon Wise' really kept me on my toes with an atmospheric look at the murders of another three millionaires. That Chesterton still has the ability to startle me after three volumes of Father Brown stories is delightful.

These are gentle mysteries that visit the hard edges of humanity. If that sounds like a contradiction then that's probably because you're unfamiliar with the central character. There are lengthy dialogue digressions which won't appeal to all but I like being made to think as well as follow a mystery to its conclusion. I'll ration myself again before I read the fourth collection, The Secret of Father Brown.

1 comment:

Innocenzo Smith said...

Great, I do thank you: I'm a Chesterton fanatic so my judgment may be excessively exciting, anyway I think we owe to Mr. Chesterton so much I'll never stop to write about it everywhere. The fact that I can't speak English but badly, even if I read his poetry, articles, novels and essays in Italian and English, forces me to do some cut and paste. So I took the liberty to repost your words in one on weblogs (unlike you my many of those blogs I can't remember the address of, I'm surely not a blogger and I barely speak my own language and that's why I need gkchesterton with me. I don't need nothing else.
With gratitude and esteem,
Paolo Merolla