And so begins the Summer Reading 2014 collection! And our first detective is one Father Brown, a Roman Catholic priest with a knack for solving all the mysteries that he has the misfortune to encounter. This collection, written by a personal favorite of mine, GK Chesterton, has been on my To-Read list for years. It's only now that I'm getting around to picking them up.
The collection I read was actually comprised of two Father Brown books: The Innocence of Father Brown and The Wisdom of Father Brown. Before this, I had only read one of the stories before: The Blue Cross. It was a great story about the French detective Valentin pursuing the master criminal Flambeau, who happens to be pursuing the mild-mannered, doddering priest Father Brown. I highly recommend checking it out, just for a sample of these sorts of stories. You can actually read it online here. (Project Guttenberg is great for reading old books in the public domain, such as this one!)
What I liked the best about this detective is just how sweet and innocent he is. Father Brown is not your typical action hero. He's too short to scale walls, and not strong enough to fight off any desperate criminals. But, he's full of common sense and goodwill. He's more concerned with saving the soul of the perpetrator than he is with seeing that justice is done. But, at the same time, he's not going around preaching and emphasizing an overly Catholic attitude. This is not one of those books that is made to be obviously Christian to the point where everyone but the most zealous of believers are ready to put the book down. For the most part, he most Catholic thing about him is the fact that he's a priest. These are genuinely enjoyable cozy mysteries with surprising twists. My personal favorite was probably The Hammer of God, which is about the mysterious death of the local minister's womanizing, hedonistic brother who is discovered dead in the center of town with his skull completely smashed like a pumpkin. The murder weapon is a small hammer--too small to have done that kind of damage--which belongs to the cuckolded blacksmith whose wife was having an affair with the victim.
In an attempt to expand the scope of Ramblings, I'll also be including any supplementary material concerning the detectives that I pick up over the course of my summer. In the case of Father Brown, there is actually a lot more than you would expect, including several audio adaptations (at least one of which is not so much an audiobook as a "radio program" or "audio play" retelling), and a couple of TV series. I've been watching and greatly enjoying the one starring Kenneth More as the little priest. While he appears to be a bit older than suggested in the books, he does an absolutely wonderful job, and I highly recommend it! I'll be posting more about that later, though, when I have the chance to finish the series.
So, in the meantime, just sit back and prepare for more mysteries and mayhem to come. Is there a mystery series you have particuarly enjoyed? Share it in the comments below! Unless something changes (and you never know!!) I'll be posting about the Flavia de Luce series next, with the first book The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. (And in case you were wondering, yes, I would also like to eventually read The Complete Father Brown, Part 2!)