"Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly." – G. K. Chesterton

Posts tagged ‘mystery stories’

Day 3 & 4: Favorite series and favorite book in that series

I’m going to cut a corner here and merge my answers for day three and day four into one.

Favorite Series: The Father Brown mystery stories, by G. K. Chesterton.

Chesterton, who wrote towering works of philosophy, theology, history, biography, literary and art criticism, in addition to seven well-known novels and a huge amount of poetry, is today best known for a series of fifty-two mystery stories involving a Catholic Priest who solves crimes on the side.  The Father Brown series are great mysteries in the cozy, British style.  Most of them start off in classic fashion with a the corpse of a millionaire showing up in an unusal location such as a clothing rack or a construction project, though in a pinch, a good old-fashioned bedroom with the door locked from the inside will do.  Meanwhile, a bunch of potential heirs who all might have a motive to kill the fellow will be gathered nearby, and the clerical sleuth always shows up and unravels the puzzle in grand style.

However, since this is Chesterton we’re dealing with, it will never be just a mystery story.  There will always be additional meaning folded into the plot.  In his Autobiography, Chesterton recalls the moment when he was inspired to create the series.  He had been listening to two college students mocking the innocence and naivety of a quaint-looking Catholic priest in a small English town.  As it happens, Chesterton himself had recently been talking with the same priest, and thus knew that the man was neither naive nor ignorant.  The episode lead Chesterton to create his series about a priest whose simplistic style and physical appearance conceal a churning mind of great brilliance who sees through criminal plots that baffle everyone else.

Favorite Book in the Series: The Incredulity of Father Brown

Incredulity has a definite them linking together its eight stories.  Each one involves an apparent intrusion of the supernatural, and in each case Father Brown unfolds a purely natural explanation behind the facade of magic and spiritual wickedness.  Why Chesterton chose to focus on this is unclear.  Perhaps he’d been engaged in debates with skeptics about the spuernatural and heard one too many charges of gullibility.  In any case, these stories clearly demonstrate Chesterton’s point: that a clergyman would be the least likely to accept a far-fetched story on little evidence, because understanding the truth about the natural and the supernatural is part of his job.  In this volume, Father Brown not only faces off with murderers, but also spars with psychologists and professional skeptics who offer their own far-fetched explanations that contrast with the simple wisdom of the apparently simple priest.

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