Friday, June 5, 2009

Father Brown

Do you read before you go to bed? Many nights, especially when it's been a full day, I'm too tired to do anything else so I just plop right into bed and fall asleep almost instantly. But on the nights that I'm not too tired, I love to do a bit of reading, to clear the mind of all the nagging things that are circulating in there restlessly, and to let my mind drift away into a fictional world.

I've had the pleasure the last week or so of reading a cracker of a mystery series, the Father Brown mysteries by G.K. Chesterton. If you know anything about Chesterton (and I hope you do) you'll already have an idea of what I'm about to describe. If you're knew to Chesterton, you're in for a treat. He was, perhaps, one of the 20th centuries' most prolific, wide-ranging author. Among other things he wrote plays, poetry, biography, literary criticism, works of theology, fiction, and mystery. He was a frequent contributer to several London newspapers, and participated in debates and lectures throughout the city. He's remembered best for Orthodoxy (a nonfiction work on theology), The Man Who Was Thursday (a suspense novel), and the Father Brown mystery collection (of which there are 5 collections).

Being new to the Father Brown series, I decided to go with a particular edition that included some of the most popular of the stories. If an author's writing style is like a set of fingerprints, then Chesterton's fingerprints look different than the regular set. He writes with a command of the English language, using strong verbs and descriptive adjectives to set a scene and develop the story. In these particular stories, Father Brown serves as sort of master sleuth, solving particular mysteries with a keen intellect and a humorous wit. Imagine a quiet, unassuming priest, content with frumpiness and the clerical life, and you've got Father Brown.

One of my favorite things about the stories is the way Chesterton probes the human heart through Father Brown. These are not long, drawn out, complicated stories, and Chesterton doesn't try to make them into a type of sermon, but along the way you actually feel as if you're LEARNING while you are enjoyably soaking up the book. There are varying types of criminals that we meet along the way, and Father Brown has a way of getting to the bottom of a situation.

I've read Chesterton's novel "the Ball and the Cross", and now that I've read this collection of Father Brown mysteries, I am ready to say that he is quickly becoming one of my favorite writers. He writes on a lot of topics, and chances are, he wrote a book about a topic that you like. So the next time you see a Chesterton book in the bookstore, or lying around your friend's room, pick it up!

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