When I placed a hold on this volume from the library, having the desire to read more G.K. Chesterton, I didn't realise it was a set of two short stories totalling approximately 60 pages. Not to mention these two short stories already featured in another collection I was reading. However, for duties' sake, I read these short stories in this volume (including re-reading The Blue Cross
) and will read The Strange Crime of John Boulnois again when I encounter it in that other collection.
It is all just as well anyway, G.K. Chesterton's works are of such intricacy that you almost need two readings to fully grasp what exactly is occurring in his tales. The construction of his phrases and the use of what vocabulary he knows fits the short story he writes perfectly. I don't mean to say that he has the best and most elegant writing I've ever encountered but the unique qualities of it work for him precisely. His stories, like all good short stories, are like coiled springs, wound up to the highest precision so that they explode kinetically at the climax for the reader. Where Chesterton does fail at times is in his slight propensity like many authors to meander and discuss philosophy or some other subject which has no bearing on the story. Or he may throw in some arbitrary detail to the story, again with no relevance. Relevance, I have recently discovered, is a key to communication, particularly in such artistic communication. That said Chesterton does for the most part keep his detail relevant.The Blue Cross
follows one French inspector as he attempts to locate a key criminal. The only problem being that he has no idea of where to begin his search. This story becomes in many ways an analysis of reason and the connection of reason to theology. I quite liked that aspect of the story. However it was also a brilliant and entertaining mystery on its own.The Strange Crime Of John Boulnois
was a different kind of story. That said it still was one preoccupied with thematic expression rather than being pure mystery entertainment. The theme here being the penance one may pay for their misdeeds. Again it follows Father Brown, the humble and idiosyncratic Catholic priest who is a delightful character and one of the more interesting mystery protagonists I have found. He becomes responsible for helping to acquit a man of murder in this tale, and the end result is quite fascinating.
All in all any short story by G.K. Chesterton featuring Father Brown appears to be a worthwhile read. They are perhaps not the best ever short stories. I find they are not quite as solid as Chekhov, Poe, Lovecraft or the Sherlock Holmes short stories. That said they are a must read for anyone into short stories or classic writing due to their themes and the fact that they reveal the work of a man who was a writer first and foremost.