I recently began watching the “Father Brown” series on Netflix and was utterly charmed by it (I *do* have a fondness for British detective stories, both cozy and gritty), so when I saw that there was a deal on the audiobook version of “The Innocence of Father Brown,” I snapped it up.
Father Brown, for those of you who don’t know him, is a rather unprepossessing Roman Catholic priest who happens to be brilliant at solving mysteries. While the TV show has been transplanted to the 1950s, the original stories must take place sometime in the 1920s, and are full of period charm–and what these days we would call the “problematic” nature of that period’s characterizations. But such is life. If you only read works from your own era, you’ll never really challenge yourself and your mindset. If nothing else, reading things from earlier eras should make you ask yourself what will horrify people fifty or a hundred years down the road when they read *our* cultural artifacts.
The mysteries themselves have that slightly over-the-top coziness and cunning of early British mystery stories, in which the hero makes incredibly clever deductions to solve wildly improbable and extremely complicated mysteries. While there’s plenty of murder, the actual gore quotient is low. So if you’re a fan of that style of mystery, you’re likely to enjoy these.
The mysteries are good fun, and Father Brown is a singular character, but what really sets these stories apart is Chesterton’s way with words. The stories are sprinkled with sparkling gems of poetry or pithy humor. Reading them in textual form would no doubt be delightful, but I also enjoyed Frederick Davidson’s narration, which allowed the underlying brilliance of the text to shine through, while adding to it through the use of different accents and character voices. A charming mystery experience all around.