A blog by the staff of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library
Saturday Shorts Week 16
Welcome to our weekend series for 2014. Every Saturday this year one of our staff will suggest a favorite short story from the library’s collection, all of them a great choice for quick weekend reading.
“Do you believe in doom?” asked the restless Prince Saradine suddenly.
“No,” answered his guest. “I believe in Doomsday.”
The prince turned from the window and stared at him in a singular manner, his face in shadow against the sunset. “What do you mean?” he asked.
“I mean that we here are on the wrong side of the tapestry,” answered Father Brown. “The things that happen here do not seem to mean anything; they mean something somewhere else. Somewhere else retribution will come on the real offender. Here it often seems to fall on the wrong person.
Father Brown (Chesterton’s sharp-witted detective priest) and Flambeau (the reformed master-thief and Brown’s constant companion) are on a little vacation in Norfolk, invited to visit the mysterious Prince Saradine. It doesn’t go well. Sure, Flambeau gets some good fishing in, but there’s also a duel with rapiers, a couple murders, a hanging, a case of mistaken identity, an awkward family reunion, and a gang of surly Sicilians.
If you’re not familiar with Chesterton’s Father Brown stories or his masterpiece The Man Who was Thursday, you might be a little baffled by it all. You see, though Chesterton was a contemporary and friend of Christie and Sayers, he’s far from a golden-age traditionalist. The”Sins of Prince Saradine” offers no satisfactory resolution, a fair amount of holes in the plot, and a singularly inactive detective. Instead, it is more focused on twisty moral points, absurd instances of humor, and heavy-handed symbolism.
It’s a brilliant, heady little brew that should appeal to the more adventurous mystery readers out there. If you want to give Chesterton a shot but would prefer something more traditional try “The Blue Cross” instead. It’s the first story in this same collection: The Complete Father Brown Stories.