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Catholic Literature Series – Mystery

Catholic Literature Series – Mystery

by Servus Immaculatae

For as long as I can remember I have loved a good mystery to solve, and I have ever sought them out in books as well as film.  Of course I could recommend many and varied mystery novels and short stories, but I will simply limit myself to two fantastic series of mystery stories which happen to be my favorites as well as having a particular Catholic bent.


The first of these I discovered when I was in middle or high school and I have loved ever since and have read and reread them as I have had the opportunity.  This series is: The Brother Cadfael Chronicles, by the linguist-scholar Edith Pargeter under the pseudonym “Ellis Peters”.  Each story in the 21 novel series is set, for the most part in the Benedictine Monastery at Shrewsbury England and the surrounding areas. The town is very near the Welsh border and Cadfael himself is actually of that land (as well as the author of the work).


This is just one of the many reason I love this series, but another is the fact that this series falls into another one of my favorite genres: historical fiction.  The stories are set in medieval England during the historical period of 1135-1150AD.  As each story is told the author was always careful to insert, to a lesser or greater degree, the happenings around England and even beyond with great historical accuracy.


The series is also written extremely well and is a joy to read.  The level of the language used is not anything like the vulgar common speech of today, but yet neither is it the unapproachable (at least for many) English of Shakespeare.  It is beautiful writing and a real example of quality literature.  And it is also written not in some fantastical kind of way with every monk being a saint and all the people being pious and reverent souls.  The stories are very true to life and the realities of human nature.  Each character is shown to be truly human and real with virtues as well as faults and even vices.


But I think the reason I truly love this series most of all is because with each story, no matter what is going on, there is always in the background the regular rhythm of traditional Western Catholic monastic life with the singing of the Divine Office and offering of Holy Mass.  What better setting for a story than a Benedictine Monastery, which in medieval times was very often the heart of the town that surrounded it or was adjacent to it.


One last thing I would like to mention before giving the list of the books in the series is to recommend the audio books made of this series by my favorite audio book company: Blackstone Audio Books, which is an English company and always finds the very best readers for their projects.


And now the list of the books:

A Morbid Taste for Bones (written in 1977, set in 1137)

One Corpse Too Many (1979, set in August 1138)

Monk’s Hood (1980, set in December 1138)

Saint Peter’s Fair (1981, set in July 1139)

The Leper of Saint Giles (1981, set in October 1139)

The Virgin in the Ice (1982, set in November 1139)

The Sanctuary Sparrow (1983, set in the Spring of 1140)

The Devil’s Novice (1983, set in September 1140)

Dead Man’s Ransom (1984, set in February 1141)

The Pilgrim of Hate (1984, set in May 1141)

An Excellent Mystery (1985, set in August 1141)

The Raven in the Foregate (1986, set in December 1141)

The Rose Rent (1986, set in June 1142)

The Hermit of Eyton Forest (1988, set in October 1142)

The Confession of Brother Haluin (1988, set in December 1142)

A Rare Benedictine: The Advent of Brother Cadfael (1988, set in 1120)

The Heretic’s Apprentice (1990, set in June 1143)

The Potter’s Field (1990, set in August 1143)

The Summer of the Danes (1991, set in April 1144)

The Holy Thief (1992, set in August 1144)

Brother Cadfael’s Penance (1994, set in November 1145)

Now I have spent a lot of time on the above series because I believe not many know of its existence, at least those of us on this side of the pond.  But the next I believe is far more well know especially among American Catholics.   This series is: The Father Brown Mysteries, by the one and only G.K. Chesterton.  What more needs to be said?  If it was written by G.K. Chesterton you can trust that it is fantastic, and I will most undoubtedly be adding many more of his books to my growing list of recommendations in later posts on this blog.


Here then is the list of the 5 books in which are compiled the 50+ short stories:

1. The Innocence of Father Brown (1911)

         The Blue Cross (The Story-Teller, September 1910)

        The Secret Garden (The Story-Teller, October 1910)

        The Queer Feet (The Story-Teller, November 1910)

        The Flying Stars (The Saturday Evening Post, May 20,1911)

        The Invisible Man (The Saturday Evening Post, January 28,1911)

        The Honour of Israel Gow (The Saturday Evening Post, March 25, 1911)

        The Wrong Shape (The Saturday Evening Post, December 10,1910)

        The Sins of Prince Saradine (The Saturday Evening Post, April 22,1911)

        The Hammer of God (The Saturday Evening Post, November 5, 1910)

        The Eye of Apollo (The Saturday Evening Post, February 25,1911)

        The Sign of the Broken Sword (The Saturday Evening Post, January 7,1911)

        The Three Tools of Death (The Saturday Evening Post, June 24,1911)


2. The Wisdom of Father Brown (1914)

         The Absence of Mr Glass

        The Paradise of Thieves

        The Duel of Dr Hirsch

        The Man in the Passage

        The Mistake of the Machine

        The Head of Caesar

        The Purple Wig

        The Perishing of the Pendragons

        The God of the Gongs

        The Salad of Colonel Cray

        The Strange Crime of John Boulnois

        The Fairy Tale of Father Brown


3. The Incredulity of Father Brown (1926)

         The Resurrection of Father Brown

        The Arrow of Heaven

        The Oracle of the Dog

        The Miracle of Moon Crescent

        The Curse of the Golden Cross

        The Dagger with Wings

        The Doom of the Darnaways

        The Ghost of Gideon Wise


4. The Secret of Father Brown (1927)

         The Secret of Father Brown

        The Mirror of the Magistrate

        The Man With Two Beards

        The Song of the Flying Fish

        The Actor and the Alibi

        The Vanishing of Vaudrey

        The Worst Crime in the World

        The Red Moon of Meru

        The Chief Mourner of Marne

        The Secret of Flambeau


5. The Scandal of Father Brown (1935)

         The Scandal of Father Brown

        The Quick One

        The Blast of the Book

        The Green Man

        The Pursuit of Mr Blue

        The Crime of the Communist

        The Point of a Pin

        The Insoluble Problem


I would also highly recommend the the long-running PBS “Mystery!” series set in 1920s England and based on G.K. Chesterton’s books, which is very well done and is available for streaming on Netflix.


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