“What do you call a man who wants to embrace the chimney sweep?” – Ruby Adams
“A saint.” – Father Brown
The quotes above are from G.K. Chesterton’s short story The Flying Stars, one of over 50 short mystery stories featuring the simple British Roman Catholic priest, Father Brown. I discovered Father Brown quite simply by accident on an errant Google search, and now find myself completely enthralled in the exploits of the humble, witty, intelligent clergyman.
Chesterton is of course best known for his writing in Catholic apologetics, but, having just stumbled on to The Complete Father Brown this summer, find that these works of fiction may just be some of the most under-rated mystery stories of our time. Chesterton masterfully paints pictures with his words and challenges the mind, as all mystery-lovers would appreciate, all while sharing the beauty of the Catholic Church. His protagonist, Father Brown, manages to outwit even the most brilliant of French detectives without losing is identity as a Catholic priest. He provides small reminders in conversation, as illustrated above in his exchange with Miss Adams, and as he puts it, “quite possibly saved a soul” by hearing a confession while thwarting a crime in progress. Chesterton’s meek, unassuming, country cleric embodies the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy and the Beatitudes in his encounters with the rich and poor, the righteous and the felonious, for he sees all as God’s children and all with souls worth saving.
The Father Brown stories are an incredible outlet for me as a Catholic, as a mystery buff, and as a mom whose reading time is not always as long as I would like it to be. Admittedly, the style of writing, sentence structure, vocabulary, and beyond requires attention, but the stories are engaging and read fast. I have always been a fan of Chesterton’s writings, and now, even more so, as I experience and recommend you add G.K. Chesterton’s Father Brown Mysteries to your reading list.