Book Reviews · Books vs. Movies · Mystery

Book vs. Television Series: Father Brown

I’m sure that I have said this many times before (both on The Unapologetic Bookworm and in person), but whether it’s in the form of a book or a television series, I love a good mystery.

Several years ago, I began watching a television series called Father Brown, which stars Mark Williams (who you may recognize as Arthur Weasley from the Harry Potter movie adaptations) as the title character.

Father Brown is a Catholic priest from a small English village, who has a talent for solving mysteries.

While the village police would prefer the priest to stay out of their investigations, Father Brown is a curious individual who just can’t seem to keep from getting involved. He’s often helped out (sometimes enthusiastically, other times reluctantly) by members of his community, including his parish secretary, Mrs. McCarthy.

The series, which is just about to enter its ninth season, is absolutely fantastic! The mysteries are clever, the main and supporting characters are equally well-developed, and Mark Williams’s performance as Father Brown is phenomenal. The series also has a very catchy title sequence, the song from which has a tendency to get stuck in my head.

One of the things I love about this series is the character of Father Brown, who is not only a great crime-solver, but also a compassionate and godly man. I love the fact that his main concern is not the act of bringing the guilty to justice (though he certainly does help the village police with that task), but the ultimate salvation of the guilty person’s soul. It is by his urging that many characters come forward to confess their sins to the police.

While I knew that the television series was based on the work of author G. K. Chesterton, I hadn’t had the opportunity to read the original stories until quite recently. Starting back in January, I decided to take some time to read Father Brown: The Complete Collection, which actually includes a total of five Father Brown books.

The books included in this collection are:

  • The Innocence of Father Brown
  • The Wisdom of Father Brown
  • The Incredulity of Father Brown
  • The Secret of Father Brown
  • The Scandal of Father Brown

The individual books themselves are not full-length novels, but collections of short stories that feature the crime-solving priest.

Outside of the occasional familiar character or plot, and (of course) the character of Father Brown himself, there are very few similarities between the original stories and the television adaptation. In addition to a difference in the time periods in which the stories and television show are set, Father Brown does a tremendous amount of traveling in the short stories, while his television adventures are of the local variety. There is also a significant number of differences regarding his interactions with a recurring character by the name of Flambeau.

It is important to note that the original stories were published in the early 1900s, and some of the stories do contain cultural stereotypes, prejudices, and derogatory language that I found offensive. I know that this is ultimately an unfortunate reflection of the world in which Chesterton lived and wrote, but I found it very jarring to encounter those words and attitudes as a modern reader.

While I did enjoy many of the stories included in this collection, I have to say that I have a definite preference for the television series. In fact, if you are new to the world of Father Brown, I would recommend watching the television adaptation over reading the original stories. It’s a fantastic show that I’m sure fans of both murder mysteries and British television will love. Fans of the television series will likely find the original stories enjoyable, but I do recommend waiting to read the stories until after you have seen the show.

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