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Father Brown Mysteries

April 20, 2008

I have always enjoyed reading a good mystery story.  Of course, I have always enjoyed Sherlock Holmes, which are the standard of the genre, even today.  However, I have discovered another intriguing mystery solver, who can solve the same types of crimes as Holmes, but does it in a completely different manner.

Father Brown is an unassuming Catholic priest, a character created by G. K. Chesterton.  Rather than Holmes, who is called for most of the time, Brown shows up most of the time at random in the story.  Most of his stories don’t even start with Brown, but with some other action, and you have to look for the priest to show up.  He is usually discounted by those around him as irrelevant to the mystery, the uninvited guest who seemingly stumbled into the scene.  More serious people look down at him, although his insight is always what solves the crime.  Some stories don’t even feature him until the end, although those are the ones where his handiwork is obvious at the end as being there throughout.  

One of the things I love about Father Brown is his demeanor.  He is humble to a fault.  The man never talks down to those around him, even when they are wrong and he is right.  When he puts the crime together, finding the missing piece, he explains it in a way that shows that while he may know the answer, he does not think himself a better man for having found it.  He is often pitted with those who do not believe in God, and think those who do simpletons.  His insight into the crime at hand confounds those who discounted him as an unassuming, unintelligent priest.  Father Brown even uses this to his advantage – he will do strange, odd things that lower the suspicions of wrongdoers, that are actually planned to either goad them into a mistake or discretely bring help from unexpected quarters to himself.

If you enjoy the mystery genre, you will do yourself a favor to pick up an anthology of Father Brown short stories.  Although written from a Catholic perspective, the stories are insightful, and aren’t so Catholic as to turn you off if you are not.  I highly recommend these works.

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