The Innocence of Father Brown

The Innocence of Father Brown - G.K. Chesterton [These notes were made in 1984:]. Twelve short stories - but arranged progressively. Hence Father Brown's opponent in stories one and three, Flambeau, is his colleague from four onward. His French atheistic counterpart, the detective Valentin, looks like becoming a regular, but commits a crime and then suicide in story two. The mysteries are wild enough, and not terribly plausible; Father Brown solves them by intuition and (we suspect) faith rather than logic. What keeps us interested is (a) the inventiveness of the situations and (b) Chesterton's unusual habit of not bringing his criminals to justice, but instead consigning them to the tender mercies and apparently persuasive admonitions to repentance of Father Brown. Chesterton's characters are caricatures - a few bold strokes of physical description suffice to reintroduce them to us (Father Brown is short and insignificant, Flambeau very tall). Just the opposite technique of Sayers, March, Tey & Co., in fact, whose virtue lies partly in the way they flesh out their characters, particularly their hero-detectives. The person whose psyche we learn most about in Chesterton's tales is Chesterton, particularly Chesterton the Catholic apologist. I don't find it any more objectionable than, say Lewis in his scifi/fantasy - in fact, I'm beginning to form a theory about these English writers: that in fact their commitment to a particular religious position frees them in some way to be very imaginative and charming. See also Sayers' plays?