19 February 2008

Papist detective lit, recommended

You know what it's like when you take the kids to the library by yourself and one of the darlings is at one of those ages: You speed through the aisles in hot pursuit, snatching randomly from the shelves at hand if you're to have any hope of taking home a book without pictures.

This meticulous method of book selection actually paid off on a recent trip: I snagged an old (checkout stamps dating back to 1945!) copy of G.K. Chesterton's The Father Brown Omnibus.

If you haven't encountered Fr. Brown before, these are short-story length whodunits, mostly murder mysteries, solved by the cleric in question. Some are better than others; I think some suffer a bit in the contemporary American rereading due to their antiquated, mostly European setting--but all display a pithy insight into human nature, much like that of C.S. Lewis (no wonder Lewis found him so persuasive). Definitely worth the read--especially since the short, stand-alone chapters make it convenient if you might have to put your book down and not get back to it for awhile...

A selection that seems rather appropriate for Lent:
In The Secret of Father Brown, the little cleric explains his "method" for solving baffling crimes:

"You see, it was I who killed all those people."
[Say what? his companion wonders.]

..."I mean that I really did see myself, and my real self, commiting the murder. I didn't actually kill the men by material means, but that's not the point. Any brick or bit of machinery might have killed them by material means. I mean that I thought and thought about how a man might come to be like that, until I realized that I really was like that, in everything except actual final consent to the action. It was once suggested to me by a friend of mine, as a sort of religious exercise."
"No man's really any good till he knows how bad he is, or might be; till he's realised exactly how much right he has to all this snobbery, and in sneering, and talking about 'criminals,' as if they were apes in a forest ten thousand miles away; till he's got rid of the dirty self-deception of talking about low types and deficient skulls; till he's squeezed out of his soul the last drop of the oil of the Pharisees; till his only hope is somehow or other to have captured one criminal, and kept him safe and sane under his own hat."

1 comment:

Rebekah said...

My dear and loving husband got me a Father Brown collection for Valentine's Day a few years ago. They're a good read, and my memory is so bad now that I can go back to them and still be surprised to find out who did it. ;)