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“The Song of the Flying Fish” is the second story I’ve read of the many that G. K. Chesterton wrote about his detective priest, Father Brown. Based on the two that I’ve read, it seems that Father Brown tends to stay in the background, slowly making his way to the forefront in time to solve the story’s mystery.
In this one, Mr. Peregrine Smart’s hired hands guard his expensive ornamental goldfish bowl with fish made of gold and rubies for eyes. Boyle and Jameson hear a bump in the night. While Jameson runs downstairs, Boyle looks out the window to see the apparition of a man singing a strange song calling forth “his fish”. The window breaks and the fish are gone.
In this case, the “usual suspects” are the neighbors – the doctor, the banker, a Count. No Colonel Mustard or Professor Plum. The doctor suggests the song made the window break and the Count suspects mystical happenings. It’s Father Brown who realizes the answer is so close nobody can see it.
I’m captured most by these stories because of Chesterton’s imaginative writing style. As I’ve mentioned before, he can be a very quotable author. Here are a few passages that got my attention:
Outside, the last edges of the sunset still clung to the corners of the green square; but inside, a lamp had already been kindled; and in the mingling of the two lights the coloured globe glowed like some monstrous jewel, and the fantastic outlines of the fiery fishes seemed to give it, indeed, something of the mystery of a talisman, like strange shapes seen by a seer in the crystal of doom.
And this one:
Only Boyle, for the first time, noted consciously something that he had all along been noting unconsciously. It was like a fact struggling in the submerged mind and demanding its own meaning.
And I thought the first line was a good one:
The soul of Mr. Peregrine Smart hovered like a fly round one possession and one joke.
Chesterton’s imagination makes mystery and illusion as much fun as the answers.