Tuesday ’Tec! The Hammer of God by GK Chesterton

Brothers and fathers…

I’ve never been a particular fan of GK Chesterton’s Father Brown, but I stumbled across this story in Michael Sim’s anthology of detective stories, The Dead Witness, (full review to follow), and felt that it was about time he made his first appearance in…

Tuesday Tec2

The Hammer of God

by GK Chesterton

the dead witness

 

The Rev. and Hon. Wilfred Bohun was very devout, and was making his way to some austere exercises of prayer or contemplation at dawn. Colonel the Hon. Norman Bohun, his elder brother, was by no means devout, and was sitting in evening dress on the bench outside ‘The Blue Boar,’ drinking what the philosophic observer was free to regard either as his last glass on Tuesday or his first on Wednesday. The colonel was not particular.

Wilfred notices that Norman seems to be watching the blacksmith’s shop. The blacksmith is a strong giant of a man, upright and Puritanical, but Wilfred has heard some scandalous reports about the behaviour of his beautiful wife. As they pass each other in the street, Norman calls out to his brother…

“Good morning, Wilfred,” he said. “Like a good landlord I am watching sleeplessly over my people. I am going to call on the blacksmith.”

Wilfred looked at the ground, and said: “The blacksmith is out. He is over at Greenford.”

“I know,” answered the other with silent laughter; “that is why I am calling on him.”

mark williams as father brown
Mark Williams as Father Brown in the current well-regarded BBC adaptation

In despair at his brother’s shameful conduct, the devout Rev. Wilfred hurries on to his gothic-style church to pray. As he often does, rather than praying at the altar, he chooses another spot in the church for his private devotions – on this occasion, the gallery, where there is a rather beautiful stained glass window. He is still there sometime later when the village cobbler rushes in to inform him that a tragedy has occurred. Norman is dead, his head smashed by a single heavy blow…

He could only stammer out: “My brother is dead. What does it mean? What is this horrible mystery?” There was an unhappy silence; and then the cobbler, the most outspoken man present, answered: “Plenty of horror, sir,” he said; “but not much mystery.”

“What do you mean?” asked Wilfred, with a white face.

“It’s plain enough,” answered Gibbs. “There is only one man for forty miles round that could have struck such a blow as that, and he’s the man that had most reason to.”

gk chesterton
G K Chesterton

But it turns out the blacksmith has an unshakeable alibi. There are plenty of other people who may have had reasons to kill the wicked Norman – the village idiot whom he taunted, other husbands, perhaps women he had toyed with. But who could have struck such a mighty blow – and with the fairly small hammer that is found to have been the weapon?

Fortunately, there is one man in the village who may be able to work it out – Father Brown. Using his commonsense and his knowledge of human sinfulness, it’s not long before he confronts the amazed villain…

“How do you know all this?” he cried. “Are you a devil?”

“I am a man,” answered Father Brown gravely; “and therefore have all devils in my heart.”

* * * * *

As always, there is a strong moral content to the story, and it’s this really that puts me off these stories. It’s not that I object to the battle between good and evil as a basis for a story – quite the reverse actually. It’s that I don’t enjoy the moralising tone that Chesterton employs through his priestly character. In this one (mini-spoiler alert) Father Brown plays on the conscience of the killer, preferring to give him the chance to do the right thing rather than handing him over to the police. All very well in fiction, but in reality I’d suggest the majority of murderers would take the opportunity to make good their escape and be on the next flight to Brazil or the Costa del Sol. So Father Brown’s uncanny ability to bring the bad guys back to the path of righteousness with just a few well-chosen words always leaves me unconvinced.

the hammer of god

However, the story is very well written as Chesterton’s always are, with a good deal of strong characterisation considering its brevity. And the puzzle, while not too hard to work out, is intriguing. One that I’m sure would be enjoyed by existing Father Brown fans, and would be a good introduction to him for newcomers, who should not be put off by my personal lack of enthusiasm for the character.

If you’d like to read it, here’s a link…

* * * * *

Little Grey Cells rating: ❓ ❓ ❓

Overall story rating:      😀 😀 😀 😀

 

51 thoughts on “Tuesday ’Tec! The Hammer of God by GK Chesterton

  1. I know what you mean, FictionFan, about the way Fr. Brown interacts with the killer in this story. He does that, as you suggest, in several stories. It’s most definitely not the most realistic, most likely scenario in the world, is it? And it does smack a bit of a ‘morality play.’ At the same time, you’re right about Chesterton’s writing. And this is an interesting little mystery. The Fr. Brown mysteries may not be exactly top on my list, but they are well-written, and I do like the character development overall.

    • I always wish I liked the stories better. Often the puzzle element is intriguing and the writing is very good, but I just don’t enjoy the basic set-up. The stories never feel ‘real’ to me, because, I think, the motivations and reactions of the villain are always skewed to fit in with Father Brown’s technique. So I’m always conscious of the author’s hand at work. Pity – I know lots of people love them but not for me in general, though the odd one in an anthology can be quite enjoyable.

  2. Too much moral content always puts me off too, FF – haha! I have come across Father Brown before and I rather like the style, although a little twee. They are nice little mysteries. I haven’t read this one and certainly shall do. I rather think Wilfred should have made more of an effort to stop his brother visiting the naughty wife but then if he didn’t get murdered there wouldn’t be much of a story, I suppose!

    • Ha! Yes, I never much enjoyed being preached at! 😉 I can enjoy the occasional Father Brown story – they are well written and often the puzzle element is intriguing. But I can’t read a whole collection of them – they bring on my gag reflex after a bit! This is a good one, I thought – adulterous wife, brawny blacksmith, village idiot, what’s not to love?? Enjoy!

  3. Hm, hate to admit it, but I’ve never read a Cheston. In my book record, there is no Chesterton between Marion Chesney and Tracy Chevalier. But——! I’ve always sorta –was going to—-and WILL read your handy short story—thanks! PS–I probably need the moralizing content!

    • I think they’ve been out of fashion for a long time, though the recent TV adaptation has probably revived interest in him a bit. It may be a sad comment on our times, but the idea of a priest working on the conscience of criminals seems so dated now somehow – at least the way he does it in these stories. But they are well written and the puzzle element is often interesting, and loads of people love them, so… enjoy!!

  4. I saw this one on DVD–the 1974 version and the 2013 one with Mark Williams. But I haven’t read this story, though I’ve read other Father Brown stories.

    • I watched a couple of episodes of the recent series and quite enjoyed them, but not enough to make the effort to keep watching – I seem to be hardly watching any TV these days (too many books!). I do enjoy the occasional Father Brown story, though I can’t read a whole collection of them. This is one of the good ones though, I think, so if you get a chance to read it, enjoy! 🙂

  5. The sudden, I look like GK! I think I do. Only I don’t have a wire on the glasses, like he does. At least, I don’t think I do.

    The hammer of God! Hahahaha. Well, some murders might have taken the deal. You must hang out with the worst of the murderers. Wait…is Costa del Sol where the dinosaurs are?

    • *shocked face* Noooooo!! I’m sorry, you’re not allowed to look like him! Go and get your hair cut immediately, sir! And no more doughnuts!!

      It’s a pity really that he doesn’t have a word with them before the murders! I must, ‘cos none of the murderers I know have ever been caught! Is it? Real ones? *hides from the velociraptors*

      • But look how curly it is! Just fluffing about, you see. Like a sheep! Just like a sheep. Good analogy. I don’t eat donuts!!

        Wasn’t that the name of one of the islands? You know, in Jurassic Park. Wait…you’ve never seen Jurassic Park, have you?

        • You say that as if it’s a good thing!! A man who looks like a sheep is as silly as… as… well, as a sheep who looks like a man! You don’t eat donuts?!?!?!!! You mean… you’re an alien?!?!!

          Don’t remember – but I do remember the velociraptors in the film! #scary Yes, I’ve seen the first three – it’s only the recent one I haven’t seen. Is it good?

          • Hahaha. Yup. That about sums me up. You should ask Nick about my goat call. I have one, you know. Might as well start looking the part. Well, not really, no. Not good for the exercise regiment. Which I’ve been slacking on, ’cause of recording. Dadblameit it all.

            Yes! You must see it–at once! You’ll love it, I think. Lots of people get it. Especially this one poor woman…

            • *laughs* I shall! Do the goats answer? But I’m sorry, I shan’t allow you to look like a goat. You can look like a zebra if you like, though. Doughnuts and recording sounds like much more fun than exercise! Glad to hear you’ve come out of retirement…

              I shall add it to my TBW list! Ooh, do the velociraptors get her??

            • Well, I don’t know. I don’t think there are any goats close around, see. Or they would! I’m fab at it. A zebra…? Hm. I suppose so. But then I’d look like a skunk. But exercise is important! Especially jits. Well, yes. For now. When you get my age, you’ll see. You come in and out of retirement constantly.

              A bunch of things get her–at once!

            • But if you called loudly enough, they would come from miles around, I’m sure! That’d be fine, ‘cos skunks are utterly, utterly sweet and adorable looking! Shame about the smell though… *wrinkles nose* Not as important as making videos for my pleasure!! So get back to work, sir!

              Oooooh…!

            • No, I’m sorry, that can’t be allowed. I will require entertainment for between the matches, so hurry up! Anyway, laziness is a bad thing… *gets another cushion and puts feet up*

  6. Now I saw everyone talking about your blog’s new look yesterday, but I only had phone access and couldn’t take it all in until sitting at my laptop… It’s wonderful! And with the larger font size, much easier to read! I have a sorry confession… I haven’t updated mine and when I tried to get rid of my headline, I couldn’t and gave up. You’ve inspired me to try again… As far as reading goes, I’m still working on The High Mountains of Portugal. I can’t read as fast you! You’re like the Djokovic of reading and I’m the joker (or at least Murray on their last court battle).

    • Aw, thank you! Yes, the font size on the old one was a bit tiny, but I did love its menu system. This one is definitely easier on the eye though. I’ve put it off for ages because I was scared it would be a disaster, but actually it was easy once I finally worked up the courage. Go for it, I say!!

      Hahaha! You probably just need some physio and a new coach! I do hope you’re enjoying The High Mountains… *worried face*

      • Yes, a new coach…just don’t make me go glutton free. I’m rather fond of glutton and I hate to create a fuss when I’m out dining. 🙂

        I am enjoying The High Mountains! It’s so good! A great recommendation, FF. You know how I am about mountains…

        • Haha – I like glutton free, though I don’t want to be it! No donuts? Unthinkable!

          Oh good! I always worry when someone reads a book on my recommendation – a bit of an issue for a book reviewer! 😉

  7. Yes although it is now many years since I last read a Father Brown tale that was exactly what put me off. This sounds like quite a good tale despite that minor quibble so I may have to try another one.

    • I don’t mind reading the occasional one, but I can’t read one of the collections – I just find them too annoying after a bit. This is quite a good one though…

  8. I loved Father Brown when I was young, particularly the Flambeau stories, but I have gone gradualy off them, for very much your reasons.

  9. Gee, I miss two days and feel like I’ve been gone weeks! Blame Domer’s visit! I do love your new digs here, FF — very easy to read and a lovely appearance. Congrats on making the change!

    I haven’t read any of these stories. Part of me thinks I probably should, just to see whether I’d like them, you know. The other part wonders whether the high moral tone wouldn’t be just a bit…too much. Oh, well, nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?!

    • Thanks, Debbie! Yes, this one is much cleaner-looking than the old one – it was long past time I plucked up the courage to make a change!

      Lots of people really love these stories and they are well written. I think the whole moralising thing makes them feel very old-fashioned somehow now – not the moral questions themselves, but the way he handles them. But the story is quite short – about 6000 words – if you wnated to try his style for yourself. This is one of the better ones, I think…

  10. HaHaHa you’ve gone all clean and stylish with Colin keeping a pair of beady eyes on you! I like the new look, and congratulate you on bravely making the change. I can imagine the slight terror on whether it would all work without too many hiccups.

    • Ah, you noticed! Colin was merely temporary, I fear – I actually prefer this theme with no header, I think, though I’m still playing around.Yes, it was very scary – I’ve been putting it off for months. But actually it was dead starightforward and all went nice and easily – just a couple of changes to formats and done. And having doen it once, I have a horrible feeling it may become a regular event!

      • I’m afraid I have got so deeply embedded into my original blog’s quirks and offers that change will be impossible. Fortunately I do still generally like it, but if something else appeals more it will be very very hard and no doubt involve much prior work on a ‘sandbox’ site.

        • I thought that too, but actually all the themes do pretty much the same things. My old theme had a dfferent toolbar system at the top which helped with the menus, but none of the newer themes do, and to be honest so few people ever really spent much time on the menus that I decide the search categories box would cover it. So far – no dip in views! But I’ll keep an eye on it and see if any hidden problems show up.

          • Well, funnily enough my various indexes get a lot of views, and I have no real idea whether the longwinded methods I set up to make them work are particular to my current theme or not. I suppose I’ll just have to explore if the desire for change gets activated too strongly to resist, and/or a theme which is a perfect match is brought in.

            In blog terms, I think the old ‘a change is as good as a rest’ adage might not be true – at least not if much work is needed – though your experience seems to indicate I might be being a scared lily livered creature and change could happen as effortlessly as changing socks!

            • I think people use my ‘Find A Review’ box more than the menus and fortunately that transfers perfectly. I’m pretty sure your indexes would transfer fine. The only thing that’s different in the themes mostly is the availability of sidebars for widgets and maybe the width of widgets. But pages and posts all transfer OK – occasional little formatting errors but I’m just fixing them if I come across them. Have you tried using the preview thingy? Remember to ‘collapse’ the side menu, though, or it might look as if your formatting is off. I can’t say I did much work at all – the only time-consuming bit was looking for a theme I liked, but that was the fun bit anyway…

            • Yes I periodically try the look of various ones on preview. I agree, l0oking at themes is fun, and (it might even have been you who suggested it) I created a hidden sandbox wordpress site, copied over a bunch of reviews, and periodically twiddle and fiddle with new themes. But so far Chateau holds on to its lead with me, as I like the unbordered white space, not to mention the fancy header fonts – they really ARE very fancifull, I think!

              But useful to keep twiddling periodically in case my tastes change, or something which matches them even more comes along. Your change did though make me do a few little tweaks to what passes for my toolbar that I had been vaguely thinking needed doing , and to one of my widgets

            • Yes, no point in changing just for the sake of it. My old theme had been discontinued years ago, so was beginning to not quite work with the changes that have come along recently, and I could only see that getting worse in the future, so it was becoming not quite imperative yet but heading that way…

            • PS Thank you for your advice re indexes etc transferring, and where any glitches etc might arise – I had a more serious look in my ‘sandbox’ site, and of course you are QUITE right, I just needed to explore customise a bit more, and have discovered much useful stuff, and even done tweaklets to the ‘normal’ site. If ever the strong urge to sugarsoap the walls, replaster, hang new wallpaper, re-paint and change the soft furnishings overwhelms me, I know it will be easy to do it now. Not to mention, you have helped me to watch out for the architectural features which can’t be changed! Bless you.

            • My pleasure! Yes, that was the other reason I wanted to change – becuase my old theme was discontinued there was very little I could customise – no choice of colours or fonts etc. With this theme, I could change the look and layout several times before I actually had to think about changing the whole theme again, if I get bored.

  11. Ehh.. I’ve read a few Father Brown stories..I’m not sure I liked them very much..seemed a bit, err, dulI.. 😛
    P.S. Love the new look! 😀

    • Thank you! 😀 Yes, I suspect the real problem is that the stories are kinda old-fashioned now. Even though they’re well written, I do find them boring…

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