Father Brown Returns!
May 27, 2011 § 1 Comment
The Return of Father Brown is a collection of short, very short, stories featuring that soft-spoken priest with a knack for sleuthing, Father Brown. Originally written for Gilbert Magazine, a publication of the American Chesterton Society, these forty-four stories are short- each a mere three to four pages long, to account for issues of length related to magazine publishing. Mystery fans will find that the brevity of each story does not allow them the same satisfaction one might get from a full-length novel or even a longer short story. There is no opportunity for armchair sleuthing, as the plot, crime and characters cannot possibly be hashed out over a mere dozen paragraphs. However, that doesn’t mean this book is not a good read.
John Peterson manages to capture the personality of the now ninety year old Father Brown who, retiring from the public eye, has moved to a small parish in rural America, while telling an interesting tale of crime and justice in each short story. Christian morality shines through since, to Father Brown, criminals are seen as misguided souls in need of Christian love and charity, not incorrigable reprobates in need of harsh punishment. The results of Father Brown’s investigations are not criminals behind bars, but rather fallible humans who learn a valuable lesson about love of neighbor, such as the perpetrator of the crime in “The Ball and the Cross”; ‘Such a man would surely have every reason to be thankful for the forgiveness of God. And for priests like Father Brown.’ Many times the victims learn a lesson, too, such as in the story “The Safe”, in which the crime serves to reconcile a father to his son. Despite the length of each story, there are still a few surprises to be had, and the crimes, though not detailed and convoluted, are unique and imaginitive. And despite the fact that we don’t get to be involved in the priest’s thought processes, the personality of Father Brown comes through and remains true to the great Chesterton character many know and love. Kudos to John Peterson for doing so much with so little.
All in all, I would recommend this book not only to mystery lovers who will enjoy the creative crimes and resolutions, but also to any reader who likes a good, short story of timeless morality. Perfect for a lunchtime break, train ride or bedtime read, these forty-four Father Brown mysteries are well-written and packed with good Christian morals.
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