Father Brown is a fictional character, a Roman Catholic cleric and gifted amateur detective created by the English novelist G. K. Chesterton. He stars in 51 detective short stories, and two framing vignettes. Most of these were later compiled in five books. Father Brown has also appeared in other media, including film and television.

His latest incarnation is in the form of actor Mark Williams, in a 2013 series for BBC Television. A second season has been commissioned for airing in 2014.

Here’s a YouTube promo, for the DVD:

An Ear, for Evil

As described by Chesterton, Father Brown is a short, stumpy Roman Catholic priest, “formerly of Cobhole in Essex, and now working in London”, with shapeless clothes and a large umbrella. He is characteristically humble, and usually rather quiet. When he does talk, the cleric almost always says something profound.

The author admitted to basing the character on Father John O’Connor (1870–1952), a parish priest in Bradford who was involved in Chesterton’s conversion to Catholicism in 1922. The relationship was recorded by O’Connor in a 1937 book, “Father Brown on Chesterton”.

Appearances aside, Brown has an uncanny insight into human evil. This is due in part to his natural sensitivity. Added to this are years spent listening to the transgressions of sinners, in the Confessional box.


Father Brown makes his first appearance in the story “The Blue Cross” (September, 1910) and continues through five volumes of short stories up to 1936, often assisted by the reformed criminal, Hercule Flambeau.

The master thief (now dubbed Gustave Flambeau, and played by Peter Finch) appeared opposite Alec Guinness in the title role as “Father Brown” (a.k.a. “The Detective”), in a 1954 film. Video comes courtesy of YouTube:

A Flair, for The Intuitive

Unlike the more famous Sherlock Holmes, Father Brown’s methods tend to the intuitive rather than the deductive.
In “The Secret of Father Brown”, he explains:

“You see, I had murdered them all myself… I had planned out each of the crimes very carefully. I had thought out exactly how a thing like that could be done, and in what style or state of mind a man could really do it. And when I was quite sure that I felt exactly like the murderer myself, of course I knew who he was.”

Usually, the stories contain a rational explanation of who the murderer was, and how Brown worked it out. He always emphasizes rationality – some might say ironically, for a religious man.

And some of the stories, such as “The Miracle of Moon Crescent”, “The Oracle of the Dog”, “The Blast of the Book” and “The Dagger With Wings”, even poke fun at initially skeptical characters who become convinced of a supernatural explanation for some strange occurrence. Father Brown, meanwhile, easily sees the perfectly ordinary, natural cause.

Although he tends to handle crimes with a steady, realistic approach, he still believes in the supernatural as the greatest, ultimate reason of all.

That’s all, for now.

See you, for the next one – I hope.

Till then.