Books That Will Make You Better: The Father Brown Mysteries
If you’ve ever enjoyed an Agatha Christie novel or book from the Hardy Boys series, you know that reading mysteries can be a mental workout as well as entertainment. The Father Brown Mysteries by G.K. Chesterton is a series of short stories (around 15-20 pages each) that follow the unassuming cleric Fr. Brown and some of the most clever and dangerous criminals in Europe. It is an excellent read for everyone, and I recommend it above other mystery series for the following reasons.
Many mystery stories follow an idealized detective as he or she solves complex mysteries. The detective is often far more brilliant than the rest of the community, and is lauded for their experience in solving puzzles and catching criminals.
While such characters appear in The Father Brown Mysteries, they are often unable to solve the puzzle without help from Fr. Brown, who is talented but unassuming. Fr. Brown is an ordinary priest who has heard thousands of confessions from sinners. Because of this, he understands the way people act and what motivates them.
At the same time, Fr. Brown is able to remain undetected by those around him. He doesn’t just “have the answer,” and he sometimes gets stumped and can’t solve the mystery without the help of the other characters. But his determination to stand for the truth sees him through every time.
Though the individual mysteries stand alone, they can also be strung together into a much larger story that shows the development and interaction of complex characters over time. To say much more would be a spoiler, but these characters are a million miles away from stereotypical good guys and bad guys.
The characters in these stories are fantastic. Every one of them has complex motives, desires and relationships, and all of them changes and grow throughout the stories.
Everybody loves a good twist ending, but what’s even better is an ending that you could have figured out all along but didn’t.
The Father Brown Mysteries feature some scenarios that are fantastically foreign, and others that are merely benign. To solve the mystery, you have to consider what you’re taking for granted in every situation and with every character. The stories challenge your assumptions about people and compel you to think about what’s really going on, instead of what appears to be happening.
The Father Brown Mysteries aren’t books that will make you better in the direct self-help sense. They require the reader to reason, intuit and apply things they have learned to new situations. They are entertaining and will make you better if you immerse yourself in the stories and consider the significance of each one’s events.