What would one have to say to introduce to the Father Brown stories a reader, say, who knew only Sherlock Holmes? The Father Brown stories do not present the reader with a realistic mystery that he should be able to solve (at least in part) from the clues given. The interest lies in the psychology of the characters, and in Chesterton's vision of the world as a place that is both familiar and extraordinary, unpredictable yet with a basic rightness -- all this communicated in a prose that is always fresh and often poetical. The selection of stories given here in this exceptionally handy and handsome volume, without acknowledgement of its source, was originally made by Mgr Ronald Knox for Oxford's World Classics series; Knox as a priest, a writer of detective stories, and a sure judge of English prose was uniquely qualified for this. Selections can't be copyright, but I still think that Knox's name should have been mentioned in this reprint, even if his introduction has been replaced by a new one.
The book I've received is the Collector's Library edition, 2003; No illustration on cover. This is a nice small (4 x 6 1/4 in.) 456 pp. volume, in readable print. It contains 18 stories listed under: The innocence of Father Brown (7) The wisdom of FB(4) The incredulity of FB (2) The secret of FB (1) The Scandal of FB (4) and an afterword by David Pinching.
Small publication suitable for holiday reading contains some of the most famous Father Brown stories. Either you like this quirky Chesterton style or you don't. Most of the time I like it although the improbable always dominates the plot. Atmosphere and descriptive writing impeccable. You just have to make an effort to believe the storylines.
The protestant did it. If there's a protestant in the story, they did it. If there's a protestant and a freethinker, the protestant still did it. Only if there's no protestant did the freethinker do it - even if he's a famous detective - because of his hatred for the Catholic church.
Some of the stories are well constructed, but the message is putrid and heavily signposted. Not quite time wasted reading this stuff, but almost. An interesting contrast with say H G Wells, writing about the same period but from a different perspective.