Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Complete Father Brown Stories (Part Two)

Father Brown stories


Continuation of Father Brown Stories real-time reviewed from HERE

My comments will be found in the comment stream below as and when I read further stories….


29 responses to “Father Brown stories

    The Resurrection of Father Brown
    “There was a brief period during which Father Brown enjoyed, or rather did not enjoy, something like fame. He was a nine days’ wonder in the newspapers; he was even a common topic of controversy in the weekly reviews; his exploits were narrated eagerly and inaccurately in any number of clubs and drawing-rooms, especially in America. Incongruous and indeed incredible as it may seem to any one who knew him, his adventures as a detective were even made the subject of short stories appearing in magazines.”
    When I read that first paragraph, I immediately thought of Sherlock Holmes, and the cinema film Mr. Holmes. And indeed later I see this story IS all a hilarious satire on SH’a resurrection in Conan the Barbarian, no, Conan Doyle, and here we now have tussles in South America of Spanish American Red Indians et al (where FB is acting as star Catholic missionary about to be mock-miraculized by a staged mugging) and partitions of the Christian religion Puritan and Roman, Saul (Paul) Snaith journalist and someone called Race itself, with the pecking order, too, of race in these foreign lands. The style in Chesterton is unique, textured, educational, but bizarre, surreal, emblematic, with a neutral hoaxing against as well as for old-fashioned standards of behaviour and set pecking orders. FB here is even set to investigate not only a murder but also, for the first time, his own murder by culprits unknown! And the lunacies of advertisement. And möbius sections of journalism.
    “John Race went back to his lodgings sad and with a singular sense of emptiness. It seemed impossible that he should miss a man whom he never knew.”
  2. The Arrow of Heaven
    “But America has a genius for the encouragement of fame; and his appearance in one or two curious criminal problems, together with his long association with Flambeau, the ex-criminal and detective, had consolidated a reputation in America out of what was little more than a rumour in England.”
    “Father Brown did not quite see. He blinked at the glittering seascape and the pinnacles of the city, and then at the man in goggles. It was not only the masking of the man’s eyes that produced the impression of something impenetrable. Something in his yellow face was almost Asiatic, even Chinese; and his conversation seemed to consist of stratified layers of irony. He was a type to be found here and there in that hearty and sociable population; he was the inscrutable American.”
    Drage dragged dragon
    “as if a chariot drawn by dragons had carried him away into fairyland.”
    FB is now a sort of celebrity, here in America, as if summoned here like a magic trick by a mix of characters, bald or brown, white or red, yellow or goggled, only pilots wear goggles, only red men wield arrows. Three millionaires. A skyful of aeroplanes or arrows? it is almost as if this Coptic Cup tontine is a Big Brother TV reality show performed, half true, half dramatised, for FB to watch and then judge. Like many of the other stories, too. Politically incorrect then, is correct now? Möbius motives and logical circles, Zeno’s Paradox, be it by arrow or by a Godly bolt from the blue.
    Murder as a game rather than a lethal crime. A bit like ISIS today. Or a murder dinner party.
    (FB= Father Brown, not Facebook.)
    “After all, I suppose if you’d been asked to visit the tsar, or the king of England, you’d have had the curiosity to go. You mayn’t care much for tsars or millionaires; but it just means that power like that is always interesting. And I hope it’s not against your principles to visit a modern sort of emperor like Merton.’”
    “‘He’s a mystagogue,’ said Father Brown, with innocent promptitude. ‘There are quite a lot of them about; the sort of men about town who hint to you in Paris cafes and cabarets that they’ve lifted the veil of ISIS or know the secret of Stonehenge. In a case like this they’re sure to have some sort of mystical explanations.’”
  3. The Oracle of the Dog
    This is probably the first mystery that FB solves in this book that he solves from a distance by merely hearing about the characters and the situations from one of the participants. So, I give you below a few clues as to this mystery of a Will and its Witnesses, and of red herrings, motives, over-obvious impulses, truisms and a preternatural animal, clues by means of a few separate quotes below from the text. It will almost be as if you solved it by reading the whole of it at a distance…
    ‘Yes,’ said Father Brown, ‘I always like a dog, so long as he isn’t spelt backwards.’
    Many mystery stories, about men murdered behind locked doors and windows, and murderers escaping without means of entrance and exit, have come true…
    It’s just the sort of theory a man would have in a book; and Floyd is the sort of man who ought to be in a book. He’d be better fun and less bother in a book.’
    But I sometimes fancy, for instance, that you are too clever to understand animals. Sometimes you are too clever to understand men, especially when they act almost as simply as animals. Animals are very literal; they live in a world of truisms.
    The more incongruous the coincidence, the more instantaneous the decision, the more likely he is to snatch the chance.
    It’s part of something I’ve noticed more and more in the modern world, appearing in all sorts of newspaper rumours and conversational catchwords; something that’s arbitrary without being authoritative. People readily swallow the untested claims of this, that, or the other. It’s drowning all your old rationalism and scepticism, it’s coming in like a sea;… (FB or Facebook?)
  4. The Miracle of Moon Crescent
    “That’s what we do in the new movement out home: we breathe. We don’t pray; we breathe.”
    A wonderful, sometimes enigmatic treatment of faith, lack of faith, doing good works if judging men, suicide or murder, facts or fancies, the ability to leave a room without beings seen, the rarity of miracles, the preternatural a level below a miracle towards something inexplicable but natural, all at Moon Crescent, a striking American genius loci, but one side of it facing, tellingly, a warehouse wall.
    “And indeed, he looked rather like a big, black mushroom, for he was quite short and his small, stumpy figure was eclipsed by his big, black clerical hat; the resemblance might have been more complete if mushrooms were in the habit of carrying umbrellas, even of a shabby and shapeless sort.”
    Father Brown’s stunning appearance to solve the mystery. The flickering of film where spaces exist between the frames? Or simply a brutal murder that can be explained with recourse to the preternatural?
    ‘I don’t want to say anything offensive, but that sort of thing may be very well for crypts and cloisters and all sorts of moonshiny places. But ghosts can’t get through a closed door in an American hotel.’
    ‘The mind is not a continuous line, but rather a dotted line.’
    ‘Very dotted,’ said Fenner feebly. ‘Not to say dotty.’
  5. The Curse of the Golden Cross
    “I can believe the impossible, but not the improbable.”
    “There was only one lady in the group; and she was (as the journalists often said of her) a host in herself; being quite prepared to play hostess, not to say empress, at that or any other table. She was Lady Diana Wales,…”
    Probably the most bizarre FB investigation so far of suspects, a suspect suspected by he who should have been suspected most, I guess, concerning a sea voyage, curses, curses about curses, an excavation near Brighton, an excavation of an excavation, tunnels, more tunnels as tunnels of thought, a medieval gold cross with a Christian fish design of a fish design (only fishes survived the deluge?), plenty of Smaill Talk (sic) and many more paradoxes, and paradoxes of paradoxes…
    I suspect Chesterton did it. Killed literature when we weren’t looking and left us with what we read now, so much better than what literature WOULD have been.
    “Americans really respect work, rather as Europeans respect war.”
    “and it would seem that there are no less than three curses involved; a curse for entering the sealed chamber, a double curse for opening the coffin, and a triple and most terrible curse for touching the gold relic found inside it.”
  6. The Dagger with Wings
    “Father Brown, at one period of his life, found it difficult to hang his hat on a hat-peg without repressing a slight shudder.”
    And here we find out why – in this magnificent, probably the most stunningly descriptive story so far (description of the colonnaded house, central character and blankness of snow), the most imaginative, the most philosophically textured, the most reasoned out, the most Aickman-like — the most intangibly preternatural story albeit one with an ostensible logically rational denouement.
    Just a few random thoughts…
    “as if he had been in bed or lived in a state of slowly getting up,”
    Does this relate later to the following?…
    “‘You mean,’ said Father Brown thoughtfully, ‘that he is in a perpetual state of levitation.’”
    A story of madness as genius, or one of two men going to a fancy-dress party dressed as each other.
    A remarkable passage…
    “Then he went back and sat down again, staring at the dark carpet, which again glowed blood-red with the light from the glass door. Something in the filtered light set his mind drifting on certain borderlands of thought, with the first white daybreak before the coming of colour, and all that mystery which is alternately veiled and revealed in the symbol of windows and of doors.”
    And another…
    “‘You do believe it,’ he said. ‘You do believe everything. We all believe everything, even when we deny everything. The denyers believe. The unbelievers believe. Don’t you feel in your heart that these contradictions do not really contradict: that there is a cosmos that contains them all? The soul goes round upon a wheel of stars and all things return; perhaps Strake and I have striven in many shapes, beast against beast and bird against bird, and perhaps we shall strive for ever. But since we seek and need each other, even that eternal hatred is an eternal love. Good and evil go round in a wheel that is one thing and not many. Do you not realize in your heart, do you not believe behind all your beliefs, that there is but one reality and we are its shadows; and that all things are but aspects of one thing: a centre where men melt into Man and Man into God?’”
    For God, in that passage , please read:-
    the book, at any one time, that I am submitting to an act of Dreamcatching or Gestalt Real-Time Reviewing.
  7. The Doom of the Darnaways
    “The lady of this Shallot not only in some sense saw the world in a mirror, but even saw the world upside-down.”
    A place worthy of Poe, a House of Usher rife with inbreeding, family curses, a lame devil, a painted portrait, photographic tripods like spiders, and FB who ironically as a Catholic Priest dissolves darkness with logic and here with photographic light, as in the previous story it was snow. Holbein too, but I did not notice his elongated skull as if through a lens. Or did I? And books with false titles and tricksy stories like this bookful of them.
    And, oh yes, the brightness of murder if it can explain away a suicide.
    “It was, if not exactly a spiritual duel between Darnaway and the demoniac picture, at least a duel between Darnaway and his own doubts. He wanted to bring the daylight of photography face to face with that dark masterpiece of painting; and to see whether the sunshine of the new art would not drive out the shadows of the old.”
  8. The Ghost of Gideon Wise
    “Father Brown always regarded the case as the queerest example of the theory of an alibi:”
    A story that set my head spinning, where the rarefication of metaphysical conceit that is Father Brown reaches overdrive. Launched from a political plot – with a journalist as go-between three millionaires and three Bolsheviks in period Britain – we have an undercover policeman called Nares (should have guessed it was a policeman in disguise with his name being an anagram of ‘snare’) – and a ghost of a man who was not yet dead, and a twist on alibi theory where one person can be in the two places at the same time, and the concept of being too convincing to convince….
    “But about this third man with the goggles, who spoke so sensibly and simply, there was something uncanny; it was like a dead man talking at the table.”
    “But believing in ghosts is one thing, and believing in a ghost is quite another.”
    The Secret of Father Brown
    “Flambeau, once the most famous criminal in France and later a very private detective in England, had long retired from both professions. Some say a career of crime had left him with too many scruples for a career of detection.”
    An amazing prelude to the next set of stories. So startling, deep, religious, with passages to die for, as FB, visiting fb, is questioned by an American – in ‘Mr Holmes’-like style – about the secret of FB’s detection methods, like becoming the murderer, by reconstruction of psychology, almost as a religion. Occult or rational? Fiction and Truth. Much like my own gestalt real-time reviewing …
    “We are well acquainted,” went on the stranger firmly, “with the alleged achievements of Dupin and others; and with those of Lecoq, Sherlock Holmes, Nicholas Carter, and other imaginative incarnations of the craft. But we observe there is in many ways, a marked difference between your own method of approach and that of these other thinkers, whether fictitious or actual. Some have spec’lated, sir, as to whether the difference of method may perhaps involve rather the absence of method.”
    “Father Brown also lifted his glass, and the glow of the fire turned the red wine transparent, like the glorious blood-red glass of a martyr’s window. The red flame seemed to hold his eyes and absorb his gaze that sank deeper and deeper into it, as if that single cup held a red sea of the blood of all men, and his soul were a diver, ever plunging in dark humility and inverted imagination, lower than its lowest monsters and its most ancient slime.”
  10. The Mirror of the Magistrate
    “As by some weird whim of diabolical arabesque, blood was eddying out, very slowly, into the luminous water in snaky rings, like the transparent crimson of sunset clouds.”
    An archetypal FB investigation, that actually reached a court case rather than just FB’s deduction, but that’s because… Well, there is much jumping over garden walls by various characters, an implied Asiatic or yellow hair prejudice, whether a poet can do anything else while composing poetry, and much relevant to the weight of motive that echoes my own literary obsession with the Intentional Fallacy, shooting into mirrors, fireworks and just LATERAL THINKING. Yes, FB and lateral thinking, where everything comes in from unexpected angles of logic. The unexpected as the expected, and vice versa. The usual as just another form of unusual.
    “His opinions seemed to be of a nihilistic and destructive sort, as was indeed the tendency of his poetry for those who could follow it;”
    “Half the decent people in this court will be butchered in their beds, and we shall not know the reason. And we shall never know the reason and never arrest the massacre, until it has depopulated our country, so long as the defence is permitted to stop all proceedings with this stale tag about ‘motive,’ when every other fact in the case, every glaring incongruity, every gaping silence, tells us that we stand in the presence of Cain.”
  11. The Man With Two Beards
    “This tale was told by Father Brown to Professor Crake, the celebrated criminologist, after dinner at a club, where the two were introduced to each other as sharing a harmless hobby of murder and robbery.”
    Murder without motive, spiritualism, privilege, ghosts, jewellery, a banker, a reformed burglar called Moonshine, walking dead, burglary, joyriding in cars – but I failed to understand this story at all, yet I was satisfied I enjoyed it and some deep significant meaning sank into my mind somewhere! Full of paradox, as ever, and lateral thinking.
  12. The Song of the Flying Fish
    “The soul of Mr. Peregrine Smart hovered like a fly round one possession and one joke.”
    A shorter succinct masterpiece of the stealing away of gold goldfish by dint of subterfuge and exploitation of non-PC assumptions regarding those in turbans and the habits if women and the prestidigitation of —
    ‘What is outside and what is inside?’
    “Do you think it is preternatural?” that Father Brown happens always to be present in these stories wherever they take place and whatever motley group of strangers is made familiar by name and description of them? It is as if FB is the catalyst of the events rather than the responder to them.
  13. The Actor and the Alibi
    “There are so many strange things in this strange theatre that you rather tend to forget some of them.”
    An entrancing theatrical murder enquiry by our FB in a theatre, one already supplied with pantomimic props even during a performance of ‘The School For Scandal’… All very germane to this plot dealing otherwise with extra-marital affairs, curtain-lectures, blackmail, bigamy, and the wonderful concept of a corporate or collective alibi.
    Readers of a book, too, as corporate alibi in a conspiracy of disbelief? We just need together to triangulate the coordinates of a book via all our personal real-time reviews, thus to nail the spoilers one by one, then flensing and flaying the text back like the flesh of a murder victim to reveal its murderer.
  14. The Vanishing of Vaudrey
    “There was next to the butcher’s a small shop combining a large number of functions, such as is found in villages, in which a little old woman sold sweets, walking-sticks, golf-balls, gum, balls of string and a very faded sort of stationery.”
    “It seems truly extraordinary,” he said, shaking his head. “Those little houses are like dolls’ houses, always open front and back, and there’s hardly room to hide anybody, even if they wanted to hide him.”
    “This made it seem all the more like a part of a nightmare; as if a man were walking about with his head stuck on the wrong way.”
    “I’ve seen that face at breakfast, or dinner, every day for ten years; and it always looked quite pleasant and polite. You turn it upside down and it looks like the face of a fiend.”
    “It was a rather curious story about an Egyptian official who had insulted him by saying that a good Moslem would avoid swine and Englishmen, but preferred swine; or some such tactful remark.”
    A story with so many quotable quotes I could have gone on and on!
    Possibly my favourite FB story so far, with some genuine chilling as well as mentally provocative moments, in this vanishing mystery in a tiny village.
    Someone wrote this morning on my FB (Facebook) page:
    “I think that the Father Brown stories are a bit like chocolates. Best to take a few, enjoy them, and return for more at a later date — rather than scoff the lot at a sitting.”
    How true.
    And someone else wrote there this :
    “GKC taught me not to make assumptions – for instance, if you find a headless body lying close to a bodiless head in a garden, don’t assume they belong together!”
    How true, too. And this current story begs the question: if your throat is cut when you are smiling, does that smile stay on your corpse?
  15. The Worst Crime in the World
    “Father Brown was wandering through a picture gallery with an expression that suggested that he had not come there to look at the pictures.”
    Each picture a spiral or a cylinder or vortex of so-called New Art, with the impression that FB does not like such art. Yet his solutions to mysteries, here to a paradox of a drawbridge of a Border castle and of the dark hiccoughs in a linear inheritance from father to son and back again are by means of such spirals and möbius sections that New Art depicts! All with the seasoning of blackmail and Russsian intrigue.
    ‘”I feel as if I’d got into a novel instead of a house,” said the lawyer.’
    [Remarkably, I started earlier today here a real-time review of a book which in fact involved me in a reference to a ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’ scenario (Russian music, too, as it happens…)]
  16. The Red Moon of Meru
    This is the CONE ZERO of this whole book. Read it and understand.
    Religions, skin colours, race prejudice, prestidigitations, preternature, charlatans, Gothic abbey and fakir’s tent, and a whole construct of paradox..and the fact that FB doesn’t know what a paradox is, possibly means he is one. Culture versus culture. Logic versus faith. Theft versus Replacing. East versus West. God versus God. Hoax and truth.
    Read it an see but meanwhile here are choice bits from it…
    Marvellous things have been done by fakirs.” “Did you say done by fakers?” asked the other young man, with doubtful innocence.
    “I wonder what a paradox is,” remarked the priest in a ruminant manner.
    “There you go again!” said Lady Mounteagle. “Years ago, when I was in India, I suppose we all had that sort of prejudice against brown people. But now I know something about their wonderful spiritual powers, I’m glad to say I know better.”
    “Our prejudices seem to cut opposite ways,” said Father Brown. “You excuse his being brown because he is brahminical; and I excuse his being brahminical because he is brown. Frankly, I don’t care for spiritual powers much myself. I’ve got much more sympathy with spiritual weaknesses. But I can’t see why anybody should dislike him merely because he is the same beautiful colour as copper, or coffee, or nut-brown ale, or those jolly peat-streams in the North. But then,” he added, looking across at the lady and screwing up his eyes, “I suppose I’m prejudiced in favour of anything that’s called brown.”
    “There now!” cried Lady Mounteagle with a sort of triumph. “I knew you were only talking nonsense!”
    In the open space surrounded by the cloisters, there ran, like a circle in a square, a circular path paved with pale stones and edged with some sort of green enamel like an imitation lawn. Inside that, in the very centre, rose the basin of a dark-green fountain, or raised pond, in which water-lilies floated and goldfish flashed to and fro; and high above these, its outline dark against the dying light, was a great green image. Its back was turned to them and its face so completely invisible in the hunched posture that the statue might almost have been headless. But in that mere dark outline, in the dim twilight, some of them could see instantly that it was the shape of no Christian thing.
    “You are learning a little,” he said, with insolent benevolence, “of the laws of time and space; about which your latest science is a thousand years behind our oldest religion. You do not even know what is really meant by hiding a thing. Nay, my poor little friends, you do not even know what is meant by seeing a thing; or perhaps you would see this as plainly as I do.”
  17. The Chief Mourner of Marne
    “We have to touch such men, not with a bargepole, but with a benediction,”
    ‘”The Marquis of Marne has three heads,” remarked Romaine quite gravely. “Once in every three hundred years a three-headed nobleman adorns the family tree. No human being dares approach the accursed house except a silent procession of hatters, sent to provide an abnormal number of hats. But,” —and his voice took one of those deep and terrible turns, that could cause such a thrill in the theatre —“my friends, those hats are of no human shape.”’
    Starting with a picnic with a flash of lightning, a deep and darkly sonorous yarn of forgiveness and the diverse nature of crime, of masks and monks, three-headed absurdism (Trinity?), undue religious influence, duels, theatrical acting, the static act of acting and re-acting … An eventful gestalt of which that eventually brings us nearer to an understanding of the Catholic? Father Brown filtering yarns about mysteries but also of Mystery itself.
  18. The Secret of Flambeau
    ‘ “ —the sort of murders in which I played the part of the murderer,” said Father Brown,…’
    “He felt as if he were talking to one man and yet to a hundred murderers. There was something uncanny about that very small figure, perched like a goblin beside the goblin stove; and the sense that its round head had held such a universe of wild unreason and imaginative injustice. It was as if the vast void of dark behind it were a throng of dark gigantic figures, the ghosts of great criminals held at bay by the magic circle of the red stove, but ready to tear their master in pieces.”
    A very intriguing and deep coda to this section of the book, whereby we empathise with the very act of empathy, an empathy with the art of crime detection via FB and his alter ego Fb. This explains some earlier stories where both characters appeared.
    Having done something is half the battle towards solving the motives behind it.
    The Scandal of Father Brown
    “It was even possible to regard her for a moment as Mrs Potter, on the universal understanding that her husband was only the husband of Mrs Potter.”
    As ever with FB, a sophisticated texture of text to adumbrate the subtleties of character and incident. A sophisticated but hilarious satire of worldwide newspaper reporting, here in Mexico where FB seems to find himself as catalyst yet again, and its pitfalls (today exaggerated by FB and Twitter) of scandalously broken marriages, swarthy races, Byronic figures snatching someone’s wife, the prejudice of appearance and assumptions as to who is who, and carrying the debit of scandal when instead it should have been the credit of worthy cause, all geared to hearsay and what version was heard first, the Social Media that this old work adeptly prophesies.
    “Hypatia Potter, nee Hard, was one of those people to whom the word ‘radiant’ really does apply definitely and derivatively. That is, she allowed what the papers called her Personality to go out from her in rays. She would have been equally beautiful, and to some tastes more attractive, if she had been self-contained; but she had always been taught to believe that self-containment was only selfishness. She would have said that she had lost Self in Service; it would perhaps be truer to say that she had asserted Self in Service;”
    “What the devil is going on in this infernal place? Why are you sitting up all night to see it through?’What the devil is going on in this infernal place? Why are you sitting up all night to see it through?’What the devil is going on in this infernal place? Why are you sitting up all night to see it through?’What the devil is going on in this infernal place? Why are you sitting up all night to see it through?’What the devil is going on in this infernal place? Why are you sitting up all night to see it through?’What the devil is going on in this infernal place? Why are you sitting up all night to see it through?’”
    The first ever reference to an Islamic suicide terrorist – in this old Father Brown story! But there is always much in FB that breaks ground, and this story has paradoxes galore of sham and truth, the philosophy of murder by fanaticism or cold deliberation, the catalytic recurrence of FB’s presence, here his own growing self-consciousness of this recurrence, switched drinks or a roomful of daggers, the ease of murder but the difficulty in not being found out, the accretion of evidence retrieved by object or person, the genius loci of a redecorated hotel, the surroundings of dirt and cleanliness as to the nature of crime, the racisms and social pecking orders of crime, too. A whole cornucopia of mind tricks, even the envisaging of FB himself as real person or literary trick. This quick one does it with long drawn out machinations , and vice versa. You tell me which.
    So many quotable passages, I can’t help myself and show some of them below.
    ‘It’s all very well for you, Father Brown,’ said the Inspector good-humouredly. ‘You’ve had a lot more murders than your fair share; and we poor policemen sit starving all our lives, even for a little one.
    It was the simple idea that, if Prohibition is right, some honour is due to the Prophet who was perhaps the first Prohibitionist. He had corresponded with the leaders of Mahommedan religious thought, and had finally induced a distinguished Moslem (one of whose names was Akbar and the rest an untranslatable ululation of Allah with attributes) to come and lecture in England on the ancient Moslem veto on wine.
    John Raggley was generally regarded as a crank. He was the sort of man who writes letters to the newspaper, which generally do not appear in the newspaper; but which do appear afterwards as pamphlets, printed (or misprinted) at his own expense; and circulated to a hundred waste-paper baskets.
    ‘I said,’ observed Greenwood, ‘that the one sort of murder we can’t stop is murder by somebody like a religious fanatic. That brown fellow probably thinks that if he’s hanged, he’ll go straight to Paradise for defending the honour of the Prophet.’
    ‘I know,’ said Father Brown, and his mouth took on again the twisted smile. ‘I sometimes think criminals invented hygiene. Or perhaps hygienic reformers invented crime; they look like it, some of them. Everybody talks about foul dens and filthy slums in which crime can run riot; but it’s just the other way. They are called foul, not because crimes are committed, but because crimes are discovered. It’s in the neat, spotless, clean and tidy places that crime can run riot; no mud to make footprints; no dregs to contain poison; kind servants washing out all traces of the murder; and the murderer killing and cremating six wives and all for want of a little Christian dirt.
  21. The Blast of the Book
    “It is that the man who had looked into the book walked straight over the side of the ship, and was never seen again.”
    But no splash!
    This is about a book that if you merely look into it the Devil will get you, and time and time again this is proved by each one daring to look inside immediately vanishing…
    Also a very engaging tale of a Professor who prided himself on believing as well as disbelieving all spiritual or paranormal things, ever the empiricist. Except he didn’t appreciate his clerk and how characterful his clerk was, a clerk he named after a calculator machine — the forerunner of the computer that now holds FB and Twitter if not FB himself?
    A fine FaBle sussed by FB, one of apparitions not as appearances but as their opposite. And that brings me back to the calculator…
    “I suppose the hardest thing is to convince anybody that 0 + 0 + 0 = 0.”
    Cone Zero, again?
    “The mysterious connection between Father Brown’s first shock of enlightenment and the chance language about the pool and the inn, hag-rode her fancy in a hundred forms of ugly symbolism. The Green Man became a ghost trailing loathsome weeds and walking the countryside under the moon; the sign of the Green Man became a human figure hanging as from a gibbet; and the tarn itself became a tavern, a dark subaqueous tavern for the dead sailors.”
    Another master-solution by our laid-back, pipe smoking, quietness-loving Father Brown whose colour is infiltrated with Green, as seaweed, while he ponders the stabbing of the Admiral due to return from sea, and his body found by the Green Man. Was the culprit the swarthy pirate-loving man as most suspected? Or someone less obvious? A lesson for a humanity that is often prejudiced. But not so our everpresent stoical clear-thinking Father Brown – who must equally take the catalytic blame for all these murders he was surely created to solve?
  23. The Pursuit of Mr Blue
    “Along a seaside parade on a sunny afternoon, a person with the depressing name of Muggleton was moving with suitable gloom. There was a horseshoe of worry in his forehead, and the numerous groups and strings of entertainers stretched along the beach below looked up to him in vain for applause. Pierrots turned up their pale moon faces, like the white bellies of dead fish, without improving his spirits; niggers with faces entirely grey with a sort of grimy soot were equally unsuccessful in filling his fancy with brighter things.”
    A man who talked like a book and another who talked through his nostrils, while Father Brown solves the interaction of various presumptive identities in a scenario of a millionaire’s murder on a closed pleasure pier, and plays with automatic amusements, a red doll and a blue doll chasing each other in a circle, but which was the first one to chase the other? I think the next time FB uncovers the culprit of a crime it will be me!
  24. The Crime of the Communist
    Three men came out from under the lowbrow Tudor arch in the mellow facade of Mandeville College, into the strong evening sunlight of a summer day which seemed as if it would never end; and in that sunlight they saw something that blasted like lightning; well-fitted to be the shock of their lives.
    ‘Good God,’ cried Craken with the intense invocation of the atheist. ‘Do you think I don’t want to apply Economics? Only, when we apply it, you call it red ruin and anarchy; and when you apply it, I take the liberty of calling it exploitation. If only you fellows would apply Economics, it’s just possible that people might get something to eat. We are the practical people; and that’s why you’re afraid of us. That’s why you have to get two greasy Capitalists to start another Lectureship; just because I’ve let the cat out of the bag.’
    ‘I have to do with England,’ said Father Brown. ‘I come from there. And the funniest thing of all is that even if you love it and belong to it, you still can’t make head or tail of it.’
    SPOILER: A tale where Craken the Communist is not the villain, a tale of the planting of matchboxes, the discovery that murder is rarely to do with what you expect, if often to do with petty thievery or swindles or envy or prejudice or hate or passion or politics left and right, but never in Father Brown stories is it to do with gratuitousness as in Camus — as two Capitalist patrons of Mandeville College are found like waxworks sitting peacefully in their garden chairs. The above three quotes tell you much. But it is a more special experience to read the whole story, as quoting from it is a crime like petty thievery!
    For there was hanging like a cloud over the half-built skyscraper the possibility of a Labour crisis,
    One of those still electric shocks of fancy that sometimes thrilled Father Brown’s mind in an almost meaningless way shot through him at that particular instant. He had a queer notion that the man who was speaking could not now be murdered, because he was already dead. It was, he cheerfully admitted, a perfectly senseless idea. But there was something that always gave him the creeps about the cold disenchanted detachment of the noble senior partner; about his cadaverous colour and inhospitable eyes. ‘The fellow,’ he thought in the same perverse mood, ‘has green eyes and looks as if he had green blood.’
    This was partly due to his remembering, as a man may remember a dream, the fact of having been half-awakened at a more regular hour and fallen asleep again; a common enough occurrence with most of us, but a very uncommon occurrence with Father Brown. And he was afterwards oddly convinced, with that mystic side of him which was normally turned away from the world, that in that detached dark islet of dreamland, between the two wakings, there lay like buried treasure the truth of this tale.
    It’s not that I can’t see the solution to this story, but that I can’t see its problem, or words to that effect. Following the Communist in the previous story this one has Bolsheviks and a Lord and Trade Unions – and Workers working on a building near where FB sleeps. Three more quotes above that I have stolen from the text, probably the most abstruse text you will ever read. You need to sleep and dream of if to solve its problem or problemise its solution. The pin without a point like a tell-tale heart under the floorboards. A suicide and murder in palimpsest.
  26. The Insoluble Problem
    This queer incident, in some ways perhaps the queerest of the many that came his way, happened to Father Brown at the time when his French friend Flambeau had retired from the profession of crime and had entered with great energy and success on the profession of crime investigator.
    Father Brown was not very fond of the telephone. He was one who preferred to watch people’s faces and feel social atmospheres, and he knew well that without these things, verbal messages are apt to be very misleading,
    FB and FB both characters in this story… And that’s a premonition of Facebook!
    the tree was in flower and the corpse was hung with a faded peacock-green dressing-gown, and wore on its wagging head a scarlet smoking-cap. Also it had red bedroom-slippers, one of which had fallen off and lay on the grass like a blot of blood. But neither Flambeau or Father Brown was looking at these things as yet. They were both staring at a strange object that seemed to stick out of the middle of the dead man’s shrunken figure; and which they gradually perceived to be the black but rather rusty iron hilt of a seventeenth-century sword, which had completely transfixed the body.
    Three more quotes above stolen from the text. From the previous story’s palimpsest of murder and suicide, we now have one of hanging and being stabbed with a sword. The paradoxes and loops of logic as well as the insoluble solution and problemless problem take a rich textured Catholic turn with this mix of characters and the mystery of the Reliquary at the centre of all machinations.
    This book nears its end. A book that you will need to read soon in case you don’t ever read it.
    Vamper, not vampire, I suggest.
    And this time, for the last story ever, I steal a review that is not my own:
    “A curious sense of unreality hangs like a pall over the St. Mary Meadish village where the vicar’s poetical son is enamoured of Mrs. Maltravers, who may have poisoned her husband. The solution is, as usual, not what we have been led to expect, but the motive makes no sense, and neither do the dates.”

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