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3. Ran out of Title Ideas, or ‘The Blue Cross’ and ‘The Secret Garden’ by G.K. Chesterton

Well, let’s start my foray in to the world of short stories by beginning with Father Brown, by G.K. Chesterton. Over 26 years, from 1910 to 1936, Chesterton published 53 short stories featuring the Roman Catholic priest, just 3 short of Holmes’s count. I haven’t read any of these yet, but apparently they’re really good.

Spoiler-Free:

Anyways, what we’re starting with is Father Brown’s first adventure, ‘The Blue Cross‘. I call it a Father Brown adventure, but honestly, it’s not that at all. The main plot follows Aristide Valentin, head of the Paris police, and he has arrived in England. Why? But to trace the most cunning thief of them all, Flambeau! Flambeau is a master criminal, and we are told of many of his advents in crime, such as making an entirely fake Dairy Company, or sending secret messages by writing them infinitesimally small. One gets the feeling that Flambeau is not to be messed with.

In any case, we are told of two things. Flambeau’s singular height, and Valentin’s determination to catch the thief. Following Valentin’s arrival to the streets of London, he is told of and treated to many unusual… activities, for lack of a better word, such as swapping the sugar and salt in a hotel, or people paying four times the needed bill, and throwing soup at wall. Time and time again, pranks of such natures come up, such as swapping Brazil nuts, and oranges, or upsetting apples.

Well, after knowing of this, Valentin assumes that it has something to do with Flambeau, and his goal to steal a valuable blue cross, and continues his journey, enlisting the help of policemen nearby, and finally, tracing his quarry to two priests, and there, the dénouement occurs. And what a dénouement it is. Personally, I quite enjoyed it myself, and it is such a wonderful explanation.

But, for the important part, did I manage to solve it? Here, the answer is yes. I feel like there were only two possible ways that this was going to go down, and one of them was infinitely more likely than the other.

A strong start to the series, what about ‘The Secret Garden‘. Not the one by Frances Hodgson Burnett, but what I feel to be a far infinitely better story by Chesterton.

Once again, we see Aristide Valentin in this story, in all his glory. The scene of this story is at his house, and naturally, he is to play a major part in the events that follow. Also present at the gathering include Lord and Lady Galloway, their daughter Lady Margaret, the Duchess of Mont St. Michel, Dr. Simon, Commandant O’Brien, and of course, Father Brown. Also expected at the party is one Julius K. Brayne, an American multi-millionaire, with a penchant for donating to various religions. Unexpectedly for some, including myself, who would have thought him to be murdered and his body discovered instantly, he does turn up fine and well.

At some point in the night, Lord Galloway discovers what he says to be “A corpse in the grass—a blood-stained corpse”. And a corpse in the grass it is, but with the added detail of being decapitated, the head falling off as soon as the body is lifted, and with not one person knowing who his identity is.

Surprisingly, this is also an impossible crime, as the dead man seemed to have no way to enter the premises, and yet somehow he did. Suspicions are raised, and then dashed almost as quickly, before a second murder occurs.

And it is when this second murder is discovered that Father Brown realises the solution. And my god! What a solution. It is fantastic, wonderful, and yet still utterly believable at the same time. The reason for the impossibility is succinct, and in hindsight, obvious. All in all, this is a brilliant tale, and this spells out high hopes for my future with Father Brown.

Now, did I manage to solve this mystery? No. The solution completely passed over my head, as if it were a plane. Words cannot describe the brilliance of it, and as I write this not five minutes after having finished the story, I am still finding myself in awe at this brilliance.

Spoiler-Full:

Now, I suppose it’s time for the white-text, as I enter the realm of spoilers…

So, beginning with ‘The Blue Cross‘. Given that we know that two priests are involved and that Father Brown is a priest, surely it is not difficult to connect the two events. Granted, when this story was published, it may have been more difficult, given that the protagonist would be seen as Valentin. The solution is not a particularly clever part of ratiocination, but as mentioned, it is still pleasing, and manages to convey its true intentions.

Next, let us look at ‘The Secret Garden‘. God, how I adore this solution. The solution is simply brilliant, I mean, using a criminal’s head to pretend the body of the victim is someone else? Astounding. More so is the reveal of Valentin as the criminal, which I did not see coming up at all. I honestly did think he was going to be the Lestrade, or the Japp to Father Brown. But still, for the risk of repeating myself for the umpteenth time, wow, did I love this. An ingenious solution for an ingenious criminal.

Cases Solved: 3

Cases Unsolved: 2

Well, I’ve definitely heaped enough praise on to Father Brown. I do know there is a TV show, but as it seems to not be related to the stories, I’ll probably stay away from it. Tomorrow’s review will probably be another Conan volume.

However, I have something else to announce! So, I went to my local library, and there I discovered that they have all 4 Daniel Hawthorne novels by Anthony Horowitz! I read the Alex Rider books as a kid, so this would definitely appeal to me, especially when I found out they were fair-play whodunnits. I now have all four books with me, and so, intend to see reviews of them out soon! That’s all from me, and thank you!

One response to “3. Ran out of Title Ideas, or ‘The Blue Cross’ and ‘The Secret Garden’ by G.K. Chesterton”

  1. […] already reviewed the first two stories in this collection, in an earlier post. There’s no time like the present, so, let’s start with the […]

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