Review: The Return of Father Brown

I love mysteries. I love Catholic writing. I especially love reading Catholic mysteries! My favorite Catholic detective is Father Brown; the only problem is that GK Chesterton (also known as GKC) only wrote 50 or so stories about this Catholic priest who was, in the words of his author, “that his conspicuous quality was not being conspicuous”. These original stories are wonderful reading … and re-reading … and re-reading. But I wanted more and GKC was long-dead before I even read my first one!

Problem solved with the publication by the American Chesterton Society of John Peterson’s The Return of Father Brown. In this paperbook, I found 44 original stories that are as good as GKC’s stories. Peterson has moved Father Brown from England to the American midwest, aging him to his 90s, but with a mind and a heart still strong and loving. Peterson “gets” GKC’s goal of “locked room” mysteries; he “gets” that Father Brown is more interesed in saving souls and protecting the innocent than in aprehending the criminal; and, Peterson “gets” that GKC’s seemingly innocuous mysteries are tales of the fallen nature of humans with the resulting deadly sins that can only be combatted with the cardinal virtues of faith, hope and love.

Each of the 44 mysteries in this collection are stand-alone stories about happenings in a small midwest town, where Father Brown is now in his 90s and an assistant pastor for the local parish. People come to him with all manner of crimes or, even more interestingly, odd stories that Father Brown unravels. But, as with the original stories by GKC, Peterson has Father Brown save the soul of the criminal through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Often, Father Brown doesn’t even tell the sheriff who the criminal is but rather allows the repentant sinner to make reparation.

I don’t often like books or stories written “in the style of …”, or where the author copies a previous classic. But this is definitely an exception to that rule: Peterson’s stories, which would be fabulous as “Father Smith” or “Father Jones” stories are made that much more delightful by giving credit to GKC’s creation; these stories are truly a wonderful addition to the canon of Father Brown stories.

I highly recommend this book for all high schoolers and above; first read GKC and then read Peterson.

I wrote this review of The Return of Father Brown for the Tiber River Blogger Review program, created by Aquinas and More Catholic Goods; I receive free product samples as compensation for writing reviews for Tiber River. For more information and to purchase, please visit Aquinas and More Catholic Goods.

Tiber River is the first Catholic book review site, started in 2000 to help you make informed decisions about Catholic book purchases.

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