Friday, January 6, 2012

The Man Who Knew Too Much by G. K. Chesterton

"I am too tangled up in the whole thing, you see, and I was certainly never born to set it right."

I pulled this book off a bookshelf at my girlfriend's parents house, thinking that it might have been the basis for the Alfred Hitchcock movie with the same title. The author's name was not displayed on the side. I was delightfully surprised to see that it was a Chesterton book, and one that I had not heard of. I quickly stuffed it down the back of my pants.

As I suspected upon discovering its author, this book has no connection to the Alfred Hitchcock movie, other than the title. It is a collection of 8 detective stories set in the early 20th century. The title refers to Horne Fisher, a man who is burdened with private knowledge of public figures in England, due to the fact that he is so well connected. Fisher's intimate knowledge of the lives and motivations of members of Britain's upper class allows him to understand what is really going on, and what it ultimately kept from the public.

Accompanying Fisher in these stories is his friend Harold March--they meet in the first story. March is a journalist whose focus appears to be matters of politics. March does not figure heavily into the stories. However, his presence provides the opportunity for Fisher to voice some of the paradoxes he is facing as a result of what he know. Fisher knows who is guilty, but he also knows the motives behind their actions. And there are reasons why these persons cannot be brought to justice--at least in the traditional sense. Inherent to these stories, is a lack of justice. This is the fundamental difference between these stories and Chesterton's Father Brown mysteries.

While there is not a strict chronology to these stories, there is an overall arc to the collection, beginning with Fisher meeting March in the first story. They should definitely be read in the order.


Brent Waggoner said...


Carlton Farmer said...

Me too. I really enjoyed it.
I'm thinking of reading The Flying Inn... although Kirk started it and didn't finish.

Brent Waggoner said...

Kirk is a quitter.

Christopher said...

Where does this rank among all the books you've stuffed in your pants?

Brent Waggoner said...

Below Tropic of Cancer, above Portnoy's Complaint.

Carlton Farmer said...

It's probably # 1. I put Pamela Anderson's Star down the front of my pants, but for a wholly different reason.