One of G.K. Chesterton’s most winning books, The Scandal of Father Brown (the final volume, in fact), is available again in an attractive Penguin reissue. The affection with which the Father Brown books are held has slipped somewhat in recent years (possibly a result of a more secular age), but anyone prepared to sample the Chestertonian delights will not regret the experiment. Chesterton was, of course, a remarkable figure in his day. After a stellar career in journalism, he became (like Graham Greene) a Roman Catholic in middle life, and from this grew his creation of the deceptively unassuming priest and detective Father Brown. This ecclesiastical descendant of Sherlock Holmes first appeared in The Innocence of Father Brown, and the standard of the stories rarely faltered thereafter. The Brown tales are a bright and idiosyncratic picture of their era, with as bizarre a selection of problems as the denizen of 221b Baker Street ever had to face. While the solutions to the mysteries are often (it has to be said) a little strained, their ingenuity always wins the reader over. And, possibly the real achievement for the modern reader is the way in which Chesterton avoids making the inevitably ‘good’ Father Brown insufferably pious – no easy task. This may be due to the tongue-in-cheek humour which is never far away from Chesterton’s writing, and much in evidence in The Scandal of Father Brown .
The Scandal of Father Brown by G.K. Chesterton is published by Penguin