For aficionados of the world’s best fictional detectives, I have news for you: Christians can write fantastic mystery stories—and not in spite of or coincidental to their Christianity. G.K. Chesterton wrote great mystery stories because he was a Christian.
Fictional detectives cover a spectrum of interesting people, from the quiet quirkiness of London detective Sherlock Holmes to the assured assertiveness of American teenager Nancy Drew. But even so, Chesterton creates a surprising sleuth in Father Brown. I don’t know what I expected of the character when I started reading, but it certainly wasn’t a short, stumpy little man in a tattered black hat carrying a ragged umbrella. His sharp wit and unassuming ways were just as interesting as the crimes he was solving. I wanted to know what Father Brown would do and say next almost as much as I wanted to know the solution to the crime. He is the last person anyone would expect to catch a criminal mastermind.
But Father Brown is full of surprises.
This collection of short mystery stories ranges from delightful to humorous and powerful, as we follow the little priest on his adventures. Chesterton’s writing is—as usual—sharp and bright. His descriptions poke gentle fun at his characters and locations, and there is always more to a situation than meets the eye. Full of surprise twists that seem obvious once you look back at them, these stories have all the elements a good mystery should.
But the most masterful thing about the work is how Chesterton’s Christianity influences his stories. Father Brown solves his mysteries not because he can follow the clues better than anyone else (though he has a sharp mind) but because he understands human nature, which was gained through his work in the church. The combination of theology, logic, and genius in Father Brown makes him a good detective. While many conventional mystery stories are an almost mechanical adding up of facts to a logical conclusion, Chesterton captures the essential human element to the crime and the chase.
If you want books that are insightful and a great mystery, Father Brown is a fun read.