Book Review: The Innocence of Father Brown

The Innocence of Father Brown Cover

I hope that everyone is having a good week, and looking forward to weekend.

While there have been some inconveniences that have cropped up, but I can at least still check out various titles here and there.

I was looking around at Project Gutenberg's catalog, since I do need to be careful of what I spend this month, and decided to try out a work that seemed like it might be interesting.

Today, I will be reviewing that title, which is called The Innocence of Father Brown by G.K. Chesterton.

Crime happens everywhere and for different reasons, but the people who commit them may not necessarily be evil, and a catholic priest, by the name of Father Brown, is determined to save those souls.

However, he may not be able to save everyone in his first batch of cases, like dealing with a famed thief and various murder cases, as he tries to save those that he.

As many of you guys know, I have a huge interest in the detective, mystery, and crime fiction genres, thanks to Detective Conan, and read many, but not all, of the titles found in those genres, and decided to try out a work featuring yet another famous fictional detective.

However, after reading this book, I found myself somewhat unimpressed.

Fortunate, unlike the Yu Yu Hakusho movie, things were not bad enough that I would want to skip right to what I hated, which means that I can feel confident that I am being much more fair.

I liked how I could pick up and put down this book whenever I felt like it.

Now, some of guys may be wondering why I am praising something that would seem so terrible, as avid readers should not want to put down a book, but, unlike the stories written by Agatha Christie and the Sherlock stories from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, where most of the works are full-length books, this book is anthology of short stories, one of which was The Queer Feet, which Gosho Aoyama recommends in his Mystery Library segment of Detective Conan Volume 13.

While books with full-length stories should keep the reader interested throughout the course of the book, short stories should be self-contained and keep the reader interested for at least the duration of that story, and G.K. Chesterton, who created Father Brown, seemed to do that quite well, as I did not want to stop reading any of the shorts the moment that I started reading them.

This is one of the great things about anthology of shorts, yet not too many people are capable of making a decent short story because the writer has less time to capture the attention of the audience and flesh out characters.

Then again, the importance of psychology in a work in the detective, mystery, and crime fiction genres is not as big as it is in a story like Your Lie in April or a series where romance does come into some play, so those genres can work out quite well as shorts, though maybe not as well Agatha Christie's best works.

After all, G.K. Chesterton was able to pull me into the world of Father Brown fairly well in each of the twelve stories found in this book, and that makes me want to give him some bit of applause.

Seriously, it seems like writers today could learn something from how well G.K. Chesterton could pull in his audience to the point where Father Brown is just as well-known as Lt. Columbo, Sherlock Holmes, Hannibal Lecter, Hercule Poirot, and many other characters out there, though I do not really think that Father Brown really deserves the recognition that he gets, and that alone makes me kind of glad that I decided to check out this book.

I also really liked some of the opinions expressed by Father Brown in the various stories found in this book.

While I will not necessarily agree with everything that he said, since it does not match up with my own observations of other people, the ones that really caught my attention did have things that made a lot of sense.

Now, this does seem to be expected, as Father Brown uses common sense to solve cases, but two of his opinions really stood out to me.

First, in the penultimate story, FatherBrown talks to Flambeau about what a wise person might do to hide things and how it relates to General St. Clare, and eventually says:

“Sir Arthur Clare, as I have already said, was a man who read his Bible. That was the matter with him. When will people understand that it is useless for a man to read his Bible unless he reads everybody else's Bible? A printers reads a bible for misprints. A Mormon reads his Bible and finds polygamy; a Christian reads his, and finds we have no arms or legs. St. Clare was an old Anglo-Indian Protestant soldier. Now, just think what that might mean; and, for Heaven's sake, don't cant about it. It might mean a man physically formidable living under a tropic sun in an Oriental society, and soaking himself without sense or guidance in an Oriental book. Of course, he read the Old Testament rather than the New. Of course, he found anything in the Old Testament that he wanted—lust, tyranny, treason. Oh, I dare say he was honest, as you call it. But what is the good of a man being honest in his worship of dishonesty?

“In each of the hot and secret countries to which the man went he kept a harem, he tortured witnesses, he amassed shameful gold; but certainly he would have said with steady eyes that he did it to the glory of the Lord. My own theology is sufficiently expressed by asking which Lord?”

This stood out to me because many religions, including the one that I attend, out there claim that they have the complete truth and everyone else is part of the Great and Abominable Church, yet they forget the scriptures that we have can be interpreted in more than one way, even in ways that would take away a person's free will, and many will only read scriptures that their church canonized, or, in the case of my church, editions that have been canonized, and think that they understand what it means, and Father Brown is stressing the importance of understanding each of those interpretations and how it can influence people to do certain things, even if it might not be right.

Some people will probably say that Father Brown can become really judgmental, thus making him less likely to be a member of God's Church than Ik-su from Yona of the Dawn, but that does not change the fact that how people interpret things plays an important role in how the audience gets to know the characters, and since Father Brown knows this much, he does come across as a pretty competent detective, even if I do not really want to follow him.

The other thing that really stood out to me was how a criminal asked Father Brown how he knew what he did, asking if he were a devil, and Father Brown answered, 'I am a man, and therefore have all devils in my heart.' Right before he explains the truth behind the case.

Throughout most of the book, Father Brown has been portrayed as a good and decent person, but it is shown here that he knows that mankind have both good and evil in them, and, if one goes on through what he says in The Hammer of God, it becomes obvious that Father Brown is using the evil within him to do the same kind of experiments Einstein was known for when he was alive.

The biggest problem that I have with religion, especially my own, is that the leaders everywhere make people think that they can never live up to the expectations that God has, which makes it hard for us to accept ourselves, and will likely make it so that the person would give up on life, when religion is supposed to help man rediscover the courage to live their lives, as I discussed in my review of Yona of the Dawn Volume 3.

However, people need to be reminded in a good way that they are not perfect, but that they are good enough the way that they are, which why I admit in many of my reviews that a work may have issues, even when nothing really bothered me enough to even talk about it, and Father Brown does a good job of that, while trying to give people a second chance.

The thing that I liked the most though was how Father Brown played a very small role in his first story.

In many works found in the detective, mystery, and crime fiction genres, the detective is given a lot of screen time while they gather clues and everything, which is something that should happen in later cases, but the audience needs to be impressed enough with the detective's abilities to be able to follow them, since it would not be good if the reader found out the truth of a case in the very first story.

However, in The Blue Cross, the first story in this book, Father Brown is hardly seen at all, and it makes me think that he is not going to be the main character, and it is revealed that everything went as planned.

I am not sure about you guys, but this made it seem like Father Brown might actually be on the same level as Sherlock and Hercule Poirot, if not better, and it did make me feel like I was going to be in for the ride of my life.

The stories in this book may not exactly be perfect, but this is exactly what fans of the detective, mystery, and crime fiction want to see, since they want a detective character that can make a good opponent for them to fight against, thus making it more worth it to try and put the pieces together before said detective.

If G.K. Chesterton could not even do that much, I would have even more ammunition in my view that Father Brown could not hold a candle, when compared to other detectives.

However, because he was able to do that much right, I feel like giving him major applause, though not my patronage. Nice job, Chesterton, you were at least on the right track to creating a decent work in the detective, mystery, and crime fiction genres.

Outside of those things, I cannot think of anything else that I particularly liked, especially since most of the other Father Brown books appear to be anthologies as well.

Because each of the twelve contained stories were able to capture and maintain my interest from beginning to end, though not quite at the point where I would want to read all twelve in one sitting, and how it can be important to see how different people interpret the same text and that we have both good and evil within us, as well as the fact that Father Brown did not show up until near the end of the first story, this book was fairly decent.

Although there were things to like about the book, there are some issues.

First, this book did not really seem like it deserves to be called a mystery book or anthology.

Father Brown, as I stated earlier, is a pretty big name in the world of detective, mystery, and crime fiction, and I was expecting G.K. Chesterton to deliver everything expected of works that fit into all three of those genres, by having interesting cases that are not too obvious and many of the other things that make fans of those genres want to get involved with the cases and figure them out for oneself.

However, many of the cases in this book did not feel like a case that I wanted or needed to solve.

In fact, it felt like one of those shows on Investigation Discovery where everything has already been solved, and you are just watching how things unfold, instead of being part of the active investigation.

There did not seem to be too much, if any questioning, though there was some questioning to be found, and I was not really given enough time to pick out the details myself.

Yes, Father Brown is not like Sherlock and Poirot, since he solves cases through thought experiments and does not always somehow produce the key, yet circumstantial, evidence to proof his theory, as he relies on common sense, but it does not really make me feel invested enough to read the other works featuring the detective, and fans of the detective, mystery, and crime fiction genres want to feel invested in a work.

This is why I makes a distinction between the three genres to begin with, even though most people would label all three kinds of works as a mystery novel or, if it has multiple stories like this book, anthology, and the stories in this book only had the elements of detective and crime fiction, with little, if any mystery.

People read these kinds of works to challenge themselves, and if there is hardly any mystery, it cannot be considered a mystery series.

Honestly, if Father Brown's debut book is like this, I do not even know how he got to be as famous as Sherlock, Hercule Poirot, and many of the other famous detectives of fiction.

Maybe the other anthologies were better than this one, but I have no reason to check out any of the others whatsoever, including the only other book, which is called The Wisdom of Father Brown, that is not copyrighted where I live, and makes me regret giving Father Brown a chance, even if his stories were not as atrocious as many of the other terrible books I have come across.

Another thing that I really hated was common sense was used to solve most of Father Brown's cases.

While the big show that Sherlock, Hercule Poirot, and Jimmy Kudo put on to reveal their deductions and reveal the solid proof that they are right can become boring, not to mention a bit too unrealistic, they seem to be a lot more satisfying because it means that the reader or viewer will have to pay attention to details and piece things together based on those details.

Here, however, Father Brown puts together things that, in the long run, seem to be the obvious possibility.

Yes, the obvious should not be overlooked, because it can be the answer, but with the way things play out in many, but not all, of the stories, it encourages readers to go with their gut instinct, instead of questioning everything until the obvious possibility is the only solution.

I am not too sure what Dupin and many of the other detectives that appeared before Sherlock are like, but G.K. Chesterton does still should have had quite a bit of information at hand to create a few decent cases, beyond just one or two, and makes me think that he is a joke, as this does not even serve as a good introduction to the detective, mystery, and crime fiction genres.

Right now though, I am beginning to suspect that G.K. Chesterton only wanted to cash in on the success of Sherlock, as opposed to having any genuine interest in the detective, mystery, and crime fiction genres.

Readers want to see that a writer has a passion for what they write, by at least meeting the minimal expectations to be had of the kind of work that it is being present, yet Chesterton comes across as not even getting that much.

Hopefully, the people that are planning to right stories like this today learn this lesson, because they will fail to produce anything that is satisfying if they deliver what Chesterton delivered in this book, much like how Agatha Christie gained her moniker because she made many wonderful books in the detective, mystery, and crime fiction genres.

The thing that I hated the most though was how G.K. Chesterton made the same mistake that many other, mostly amateur, writers make, which is giving his detective a name without proper introduction.

In The Blue Cross, the story that introduced Father Brown, the reader is follow a police detective via a third person limited point of view, as we do not know what the characters are thinking exactly, and the detective is trying to follow two priests who are acting suspiciously, since he suspect one of them might be a wanted thief, and then Chesterton named the detective before the first actual dialogue that is seen.

How did the detective know that he was listening in on Father Brown?

Yes, the text does say that the detective listened in on the conversation for a while, and it is not made known which priest was Father Brown, which does decrease the severity of the issue a bit, but it would have been much better if the dialogue leading up to him hearing the name Father Brown would have made things more acceptable.

After all, no reader likes it when they suddenly know the name of a character that just made their presence known, especially is scenes like this.

Unfortunately, the publishers that released this book before Project Gutenberg got their hands on it did not seem to notice that major flaw, and it ruins what could have been one of the best introduction stories I have seen in the detective, mystery, and crime fiction genres.

Then again, seeing this flaw here does make me thankful that stories published today do not really have this kind of problem, so the newer writers are at least better than G.K. Chesterton in some areas, and makes me hopeful that all is not lost.

Fortunately, nothing else bothered me, at least that was not too minor to talk about, and the book cannot be ruined any more than it has.

While there were only three major issues, each of them added up to really hurt the book as a whole, especially if one thinks that they will be getting a something written by one of the greats.

Despite the fact that the book was not entirely disappointing, the negatives outweighed the good enough to make this a waste of time.

I recommend everyone avoid this book like the plague, because it does not serve as a good introduction to the detective, mystery, and crime fiction genre, and does not deliver what fans of those kinds of stories want.

If you liked review and would like to see more, please considering supporting me on Patreon, so that I can continue finding worthwhile reads, and doing whatever you do when you find something that impresses you.

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