The Innocence of Father Brown

The Innocence of Father Brown



The Pequod Review:

Father Brown is one of the most unique characters in all of detective fiction. He is both a detective and a Catholic priest, and he has a quiet, gentle and honorable demeanor. Unlike other detectives in the genre, Father Brown doesn’t rely on logical brilliance or accumulated clues to solve his cases; instead, he uses a psychological approach to understand the nature of the criminal himself:

I try to get inside a man…I wait until I know I’m inside a murderer, thinking his thoughts, wrestling with his passions; till I have bent myself into the posture of his hunched and peering hatred. Till I really am a murderer. And when I am quite sure that I feel like the murderer, of course I know who he is.

What gives the Father Brown stories their depth is that Brown’s goal is not merely (or even primarily) justice, but rather Christian mercy and redemption. He views culprits as souls to be saved, not criminals to be punished. As a result, Brown focuses on rehabilitation — even in one case going so far as to help a reformed criminal launch a successful detective practice. The Innocence of Father Brown, the first of Chesterton’s Father Brown collections, is one of the best and contains several of his most famous stories: “The Hammer of God,” “The Invisible Man,” “The Secret Garden,” and “The Queer Feet.”