As I commented in my review of the best of collection, Father Brown: The Essential Tales
, G.K. Chesterton was a writer of elegance and beauty. His work is so tightly written and plotted within each of his short stories that at times if you miss a single point you can find yourself missing some of the genius storytelling.
It is easy to see why the Father Brown Stories are Chesterton's most popular works in our modern times. They are absolute classics of the detective genre, written exquisitely with wit, charm and insight. Though written decades ago they still speak to the modern reader with intelligence and without patronisation.
It is clear to me that Chesterton is well suited to the short story format, perhaps slightly better than the novel. I've yet to read his plays, his poetry or criticism however this is my perspective so far. He keeps his short stories more-or-less to the point without meandering into philosophical tangents, which he does in his novel, [b:The Man Who Was Thursday|184419|The Man Who Was Thursday|G.K. Chesterton|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1320459832s/184419.jpg|195447]. It appears that G.K. Chesterton in his short stories instead uses the plot to share his philosophy rather than deviating. This works much better in my view as it gives a great insight into his ideology and thoughts without preaching irrelevantly or affecting the story quality. The other aspect of his short stories that works a lot better are that the lack the allegorical and fantasy elements of The Man Who Was Thursday
all of which further makes them more accessible to the reader.
A good example of how Chesterton shares his philosophy through the plot is this:"'There is a limit to human charity,' said Lady Outram, trembling all over.
'There is,' said Father Brown dryly; 'and that is the real difference between human charity and Christian charity. You must forgive me if I was not altogether crushed by your contempt for my uncharitableness today; or by the lectures you read me about pardon for every sinner. For it seems to me that you only pardon the sins you don't really think sinful. You only forgive criminals when they commit what you don't regard as crimes, but rather as conventions.'"
I personally find Chesterton to be a truly witty writer much like another man who made his living with writing - Oscar Wilde. The beginning of this collection opens with a short story (The Secret of Father Brown
) discussing the methodology by which Father Brown solves all the crimes. To which the obvious answer is:"'You see it was I who killed all those people.'
'What?' replied the other, in small voice out of a vast silence.*
'You see, I had murdered them all myself,' explained Father Brown patiently. 'So, of course, I knew how it was done.'
This story pauses to allow for the other stories in the collection room. It is suggested that they are being recalled to memory by Father Brown during this pause in the story. The story then closes at the end of the book as the reader looks at the secret of another key figure across the short stories (The Secret of Flambeau
I fully recommend this collection. The Father Brown Stories are as relevant today as when they were published and, in my eyes, G.K. Chesterton is a must-read author. His work questions morality, theology, philosophy and analyses how extraordinary everyday life truly is. Not only that but he writes some incredible mystery stories in this volume with all the intricacy of a Sherlock Holmes' tale. In fact one of the interesting things I note is how Chesterton is able to write in such a way to detract from who the real criminal is in his stories. You guess one individual and often the real criminal may be less obvious than it appears.