First published in The Saturday Evening Post (April 22, 1911) and then in The Innocence of Father Brown collection (1911). This edition: The Complete Father Brown Mysteries (Carousel Books, 2021). SPOILERS AHEAD?
"I am Birdy Edwards." Sorry. Wrong detective series. That, of course, is within the pages of The Valley of Fear (Sherlock Holmes). Within this collection, I think Saradine might be even more surreal than The Flying Stars. That's saying something. It is definitely less beautiful, eerier, and more brutal. Although less beautiful would be the least correct of the three. It's more unsettling, more secreted, and more mind-bending.
Even when conjuring distorted visions a la Salvatore Dali, GK Chesterton cannot write un-beautifully. "Rivers so small that the boat looked like a magic boat, sailing on land through meadows and cornfields." A pastoral scene pilgrimage by one master (Flambeau) to another of who he'll unwittingly play deadly muse. "Do you think it was all a dream?" Our little turnip of a priest markedly does not answer.
I've come to think that all these tales are no small part just that, even more so than parables. This is the most surreal, not that one. No, that one. "Anyone entering was reflected in four or five mirrors at once." A fun house on a mysterious speck of an island, 'a bad fairy,' and surprising identities. Plus so many windows which act as portals to what could be described as nearly other dimensions or peep-holes unto realizations.
The duel to the death was penned expertly and again oddly beautifully and carried more action than I feel I've yet seen here. I think it's that nagging loveliness that's most vertigo-inducing. The dialog is top notch too... cool heads in such circumstances are dynamically creepy. "I am Prince Saradine." Although, I must say only Birdy made a younger me audibly gasp. Although I'd hazard that was more easily achieved then.
Previously: Thoughts on The Wrong Shape from The Innocence of Father Brown by GK Chesterton
Next: Thoughts on The Hammer of God from The Innocence of Father Brown by GK Chesterton
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