Regular readers of this blog have probably noticed that I don’t read very much fiction. Partly this is because I have so much to read that I need to keep strict requirements on my reading list, and partly because many fictional works are so much mental cotton candy. By that I mean it’s sweet for the moment, but it’s quickly gone. But there are exceptions, and The Man Who Knew Too Much by G.K. Chesterton is a notable exception.
Chesterton is usually known for his non-fiction theological writings. But the wit, insight, wisdom and humor he uses in his non-fiction work is also on full display in this book, which chronicles the observation skills of Mr. Horne Fisher.
Fisher is the man who knows too much. Because he knows too much, he solves mysteries and riddles “backwards” from the way a typical detective would. Although Fisher is not a detective, but just a man who is well-known and well-connected, he seems to stumble upon the most bizarre settings. Fisher knows too much, so he spots what’s missing, and then works “backwards” to unravel the conundrum. It’s quite fascinating to watch him at work, and Chesterton’s insights into the human spirit make his characters very engaging.
These are not your typical detective stories, but the uniqueness of Horne Fisher’s crime-solving technique makes The Man Who Knew Too Much an enjoyable and enlightening book.
I typically share some of my favorite quotes from the books I review, but in this case I have included some of the wittier lines and descriptions that Chesterton employs. Check it out in the comment below….
I don’t read very many fiction books, but I am a huge fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s character Sherlock Holmes! So I just finished a wonderful collection of short adventures called The Return Of Sherlock Holmes.
Without being as wordy as some authors, Doyle paints such descriptive pictures of Dr. Watson, Holmes, his clients, his villains, and the crime scenes. I can “see” exactly how the characters look and “hear” how they talk, and can feel the emotions they are feeling. And the crime scenes are also painted in such vivid detail by Doyle, that I can catch all of the same details the Sherlock Holmes is taking in.
I cannot stand how some detective story authors “uncover” some hidden details at the very end that magically helps their protagonist solve the crime. The “magic” of Sherlock Holmes’ solutions is that Doyle allowed you to see everything Holmes saw. The real art is in the way Holmes uses his gift of deductive reasoning to solve the clues.
These mysteries are not always crimes. Often times they are simply perplexing problems. I’ve never been called upon to solve a crime before, but I certainly am called upon to find solutions to thorny problems. In that regard, I owe a debt to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle for helping me learn from Sherlock Holmes how to deduce the most logical solution to my mysterious situations.
These are also great stories to read aloud, especially to your kids.