The Innocence of Father Brown

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Overview

Father Brown is a fictional character created by English novelist G. K. Chesterton, who stars in 51 detective short stories (and two framing vignettes), most of which were later compiled in five books. Chesterton based the character on Father John O'Connor (1870-1952), a parish priest in Bradford who was involved in Chesterton's conversion to Catholicism in 1922. The relationship was recorded by O'Connor in his 1937 book Father Brown on Chesterton.

Father Brown is a short, ...

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The Innocence of Father Brown

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Overview

Father Brown is a fictional character created by English novelist G. K. Chesterton, who stars in 51 detective short stories (and two framing vignettes), most of which were later compiled in five books. Chesterton based the character on Father John O'Connor (1870-1952), a parish priest in Bradford who was involved in Chesterton's conversion to Catholicism in 1922. The relationship was recorded by O'Connor in his 1937 book Father Brown on Chesterton.

Father Brown is a short, stumpy Roman Catholic Church priest, "formerly of Cobhole in Essex, and now working in London", with shapeless clothes and a large umbrella, and an uncanny insight into human evil. He makes his first appearance in the story "The Blue Cross" and continues through the five volumes of short stories, often assisted by the reformed criminal M. Hercule Flambeau. Father Brown also appears in a story "The Donnington Affair" that has a curious history. In the October 1914 issue of the obscure magazine The Premier, Sir Max Pemberton published the first part of the story, inviting a number of detective story writers, including Chesterton, to use their talents to solve the mystery of the murder described. Chesterton and Father Brown's solution followed in the November issue. The story was first reprinted in the Chesterton Review (Winter 1981, pp. 1-35) and in the book Thirteen Detectives.

Unlike the more famous fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, Father Brown's methods tend to be intuitive rather than deductive. He explains his method in "The Secret of Father Brown": "You see, I had murdered them all myself... I had planned out each of the crimes very carefully. I had thought out exactly how a thing like that could be done, and in what style or state of mind a man could really do it. And when I was quite sure that I felt exactly like the murderer myself, of course I knew who he was."

Brown's abilities are also considerably shaped by his experience as a priest and confessor. In "The Blue Cross", when asked by Flambeau, who has been masquerading as a priest, how he knew of all sorts of criminal "horrors," he responds, "Has it never struck you that a man who does next to nothing but hear men's real sins is not likely to be wholly unaware of human evil?" He also states a reason why he knew Flambeau was not a priest: "You attacked reason. It's bad theology." The stories normally contain a rational explanation of who the murderer was and how Brown worked it out. He always emphasises rationality; some stories, such as "The Miracle of Moon Crescent", "The Oracle of the Dog", "The Blast of the Book" and "The Dagger With Wings", poke fun at initially sceptical characters who become convinced of a supernatural explanation for some strange occurrence, while Father Brown easily sees the perfectly ordinary, natural explanation. In fact, he seems to represent an ideal of a devout, yet considerably educated and "civilised" clergyman. This can be traced to the influence of Roman Catholic thought on Chesterton. He is characteristically humble, and is usually rather quiet; when he does talk, he almost always says something profound. Although he tends to handle crimes with a steady, realistic approach, he believes in the supernatural as the greatest reason of all.
Father Brown was the perfect vehicle for conveying Chesterton's view of the world and, of all of his characters, is perhaps closest to Chesterton's own point of view, or at least the effect of his point of view. Father Brown solves his crimes through a strict reasoning process more concerned with spiritual and philosophic truths rather than scientific details, making him an almost equal counterbalance with Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, whose stories Chesterton read.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781502346124
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Publishing
  • Publication date: 9/12/2014
  • Pages: 204
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.43 (d)

Meet the Author

Gilbert Keith Chesterton, KC*SG (29 May 1874 - 14 June 1936) better known as G. K. Chesterton, was an English writer, lay theologian, poet, philosopher, dramatist, journalist, orator, literary and art critic, biographer, and Christian apologist. Chesterton is often referred to as the "prince of paradox." Time magazine, in a review of a biography of Chesterton, observed of his writing style: "Whenever possible Chesterton made his points with popular sayings, proverbs, allegories-first carefully turning them inside out."

Chesterton is well known for his fictional priest-detective Father Brown, and for his reasoned apologetics. Even some of those who disagree with him have recognized the wide appeal of such works as Orthodoxy and The Everlasting Man. Chesterton, as a political thinker, cast aspersions on both Progressivism and Conservatism, saying, "The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected." Chesterton routinely referred to himself as an "orthodox" Christian, and came to identify this position more and more with Catholicism, eventually converting to Roman Catholicism from High Church Anglicanism. George Bernard Shaw, Chesterton's "friendly enemy" according to Time, said of him, "He was a man of colossal genius." Biographers have identified him as a successor to such Victorian authors as Matthew Arnold, Thomas Carlyle, John Henry Cardinal Newman, and John Ruskin.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3
( 23 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 23 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 18, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A mixed bag: some witty, some bland, some mean

    Take Sherlock Holmes, lower his intelligence by half (leaving him as still smarter than average) and turn him into a bland Roman Catholic priest who happens to solve a lot of mysteries and you get Father Brown. Some of the mysteries he solves are complex, and the third person narration is occasionally witty (even sarcastic), but I would much rather read Sherlock Holmes or Dupin any day. The author's frequent pot-shots at Protestants/Protestantism are annoying too; some are witty but mostly they just come off as mean-spirited.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 21, 2011

    Missing parts

    This version seems to be missing the endings to some chapters.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2010

    Interesting Writing

    This book has some good points. I like the fact that the main character is more like the priests I have known-- not perfect by any means, but certainly not the current fad of portraying them all as hypocritical dogmatists. The brevity of the stories is also welcome. They can each be easily read in one sitting. Generally entertaining in themselves, I found them also to be not unlike fables (parables?) in that each had a small moral to it (even if the moral was as simple as "Be good").

    On the negative side, some of the stories are a bit bland. All in all, though, I would recommend the book.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 6, 2009

    Captivating!

    Of course the great writing of Chesterton cannot be outdone! The superb dramatic interpretation of Mr. O'Brien puts the rightful polish on Chesterton's great work. He moves from character to character so convincingly that they clearly come alive in the listener's mind. Superbly entertaining!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2012

    Poorly transcribed

    Too many typos

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  • Posted December 24, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A witty narrator and a bland protagonist

    Take Sherlock Holmes, lower his intelligence by half (leaving him as still smarter than average) and turn him into a bland (but observant) Roman Catholic priest who happens to solve a lot of mysteries and you get Father Brown. Some of the mysteries he solves are complex, and the third person narration is occasionally witty (even sarcastic). However, the mild-mannered Father Brown is, frankly, a bit boring. I would much rather read about the arrogant Sherlock Holmes or Dupin any day. The author's frequent pot-shots at Protestants/Protestantism are annoying too...some are witty but mostly they just come off as mean-spirited.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 21, 2011

    Good stories, poor layout

    Chesterton's Father Brown stories are not as complex as those of Christie or Doyle, but they are easy reads on a summer afternoon. It's nice to have a collection of them in one ebook. However, the layout on this ebook is terrible. The lines consistently wrap in odd places on my Nook Color. The font looks like one of the old monospaced typewriter fonts.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted October 17, 2010

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    Posted December 17, 2009

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    Posted June 3, 2012

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    Posted July 6, 2010

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    Posted May 12, 2012

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    Posted December 5, 2011

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    Posted December 9, 2009

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    Posted November 14, 2010

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    Posted February 1, 2011

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