Innocence of Father Brown (Father Brown #1) ★★★✬☆

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Title: Innocence of Father Brown
Series: Father Brown #1
Author: G.K. Chesterton
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 269
Words: 78K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

“The Blue Cross”, The Story-Teller, September 1910; first published as “Valentin Follows a Curious Trail”, The Saturday Evening Post, 23 July 1910

“The Secret Garden”, The Story-Teller, October 1910. (The Saturday Evening Post, Sep 3, 1910

“The Queer Feet”, The Story-Teller, November 1910. (The Saturday Evening Post, Oct 1, 1910)

“The Flying Stars”, The Saturday Evening Post, 20 May 1911.

“The Invisible Man”, The Saturday Evening Post, 28 January 1911. (Cassell’s Magazine, Feb 1911)

The Honour of Israel Gow (as “The Strange Justice”, The Saturday Evening Post, 25 March 1911.

“The Wrong Shape”, The Saturday Evening Post, 10 December 1910.

“The Sins of Prince Saradine”, The Saturday Evening Post, 22 April 1911.

The Hammer of God (as “The Bolt from the Blue”, The Saturday Evening Post, 5 November 1910.

“The Eye of Apollo”, The Saturday Evening Post, 25 February 1911.

“The Sign of the Broken Sword”, The Saturday Evening Post, 7 January 1911.

“The Three Tools of Death”, The Saturday Evening Post, 24 June 1911.

My Thoughts:

While this series is categorized as a mystery, it’s not Sherlock or Wimsey or even Wolfe. Father Brown doesn’t go around looking at a thread caught on a bush and extrapolate the life story of the perp and then reveal him to the authorities. No, Father Brown studies the nature of fallen humanity, discovers the culprit and tries to get them to do the right thing, whether repentance or turning themselves in.

Chesterton was a converted Catholic and as such, Father Brown is pretty strong on his catholic doctrine. At the same time, it really didn’t come across as Chesterton trying to preach or convert his readers. He was trying to tell a great story first and for me, it worked.

The main thing that worked best for me though was the short story aspect. Chesterton wrote each story for a magazine back in the day and then had them collected later. I didn’t have to power through a whole novel and I could stop between stories without losing anything. I appreciate that simplicity and lack of tangled complexity that a lot of modern books seem to deliberately aim for.

One interesting aspect that stood out to me was that in several of the stories the villain of the piece took poison rather than face public justice. That happened in one of the Lord Peter Wimsey books too and I wonder if it was a “sensibility of the times” thing? I don’t think of the bad guys of today taking poison but either fighting or flight’ing or of readers caring one way or the other. I’ll be keeping an eye out to see if it happens in any more stories.

A good addition to my reading rotation. Since I am also reading several other mystery series, I am going to be switch hitting the Complete Works of Chesterton with the Complete Works of the Sisters’ Bronte. That way I don’t Mystery myself out 🙂

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

31 thoughts on “Innocence of Father Brown (Father Brown #1) ★★★✬☆

  1. Well, “good name” was a really important thing back than, and there were no PR companies to hire when it was blemished… was it any better? People were just as bad, and it was even easier for the powerful to get away with their wrongdoings. I personally believe honour is a nice personal virtue, but no basis for a good society…

    Liked by 3 people

  2. That cover still screams Pet Shop Boys to me, even if you dodn’t know who they are.

    Poisoning yourself used to be the easy way out of public disgrace. But it seems there no such thing as public disgrace anymore…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Pet Shop Boys, they’re located next to the chinese restaurant in the mall, right? I might have seen them.

      I would concur that there is no public disgrace anymore. At least not in Europe and America. Not sure about the rest of the world.

      Like

  3. Suicide was an option offered to Romans accused of high crimes, but there was a practical reason for it: if they killed themselves before being sentenced to death their estates couldn’t be seized.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. The Victorians did see themselves as latter-day Romans in a lot of ways. That’s the only connection I can make. “Dying like Romans” was proverbial for centuries though as choosing a noble end (e.g. Volpone: “Let us die like Romans, Since we have lived like Greeks”, or something like that).

        Liked by 2 people

  4. My impression re suicide was that it was a way to tacitly admit guilt and voluntarily accept punishment, while largely–as in the Roman example–retaining the honor of the rest of the family.

    I’m sure there’s a scholarly treatment of this subject somewhere but it’s not one I cared to look *too* deeply into….

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Regarding poison, a book that I read recently by Trollope ended one storyline with a disgraced shady businessman/politician taking poison (prussic acid) rather than face up to public disgrace. Given the grand melodramatic nature of Victorian literature (and Victorian upper-class people?), I think it makes sense that this would show up a lot. Now I’m wondering if it was a real-life thing or just a literary trope…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I read somewhere that the good name was very important back then and linked to the social standing of a whole family (and their estates). There was a pressure not to publicize crimes/shortcomings in the family, especially through a public trial.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Everything I’ve heard paints the picture that women are concerned with how they will look after they die, hence the lower number of gunshot deaths, etc. I have no idea how factual or backed up by numbers that is though.

      It sounds true to me though 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Wow, really interesting discussion in the comments about suicide. If the act of suicide could really expunge our shame, heck, I’d do it! Wouldn’t we all? Unfortunately it does not do that. It throws the shame onto everyone who knew us. At least that’s how it is in modern times.

    But I really just came by to say that I love the Father Brown stories and I have read this collection. What I especially like is the way that usually, the villain is a very charismatic person and Father Brown is described as “dull” and pedantic, such that people consistently underestimate him. I remember that especially with the cult leader.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Which is why I’m interested in this specific time period, because I don’t understand the social dynamics of it.

      Every time Chesterton begins describing Brown I just picture a potato 🙂

      Like

  8. Adding to what everybody else has already said:

    (1) Suicide wasn‘t merely the honorable thing to do if you‘d committed a crime and stood to be prosecuted; it was the *expected* response to any form of public shame, including events that you couldn‘t actually control. To a businessman, for example, bankruptcy — even as a result of a hazard such as catastrophic weather causing a ruined harvest in the entire country — was equivalent to financial and moral death / the death of his honor; he was expected to follow up with his actual suicide, as there just was no other honorable way out of bankruptcy (for an example from literature, see Thomas Mann‘s Buddenbrooks).

    (2) Chesterton and Sayers both opposed the death penalty. Their letting their sleuths give murderers the option of suicide rather than a lengthy public trial with the public hangman at the end (as a quicker and more private way out) — Sayers does it more than once, too — is an indication of a certain amount of, well, maybe not sympathy but charitable feeling towards the person in question … as well as their families, who would invariably have been tainted by association as a result of a public murder trial, but would be left to grieve in silence and with their dignity intact in the event of a suicide. (Sayers‘s Lord Peter Wimsey expressly gives this as a core reasoning in one case; in another he suggests suicide as a way of sparing a suspected co-conspirator who is actually innocent the turmoil of having to be dragged into court with only a vague hope that their innocence could be established — so in that instance, the actual murderer‘s suicide, combined with a full confession in writing, would definitely not only be the more charitable but also the more honorable end.) Interestingly, even Agatha Christie, who was a proponent of the death penalty, agreed with Sayers‘s and Chesterton‘s take on the issue … we had this exact same discussion in the Appointment with Agatha group not long ago.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Interesting! Thanks for all that. This is why it can really pay off to ask questions. Sometimes you get answered 😀

      I did not know that Chesterton and Sayers were anti-death penalty. Makes me wonder what they were basing that on. I’ll keep it in mind for their books though. It would definitely explain a lot.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Oh, I figured that. I was wondering more specific (not asking YOU to justify their decisions, mind you) because I always find it interesting how people squirm around the fact that it was God Himself who instituted the death penalty.

          Like

    1. Thanks.
      this complete collection takes away all the “what do I read of Chesterton’s next”. I just read what is next in the collection. Sometimes choice isn’t all that people make it out to be.

      I was reading down through the comments. The twitter guy admitted to not being able to hack Brothers Karamazov. #norespect

      🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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