"The little priest was so much the essence of those Eastern flats; he had a face as round and dull as a Norfolk dumpling; he had eyes as empty as the North Sea; he had several brown paper parcels, which he was quite incapable of collecting."
Father Brown is a detective series created by G. K. Chesterton. The protagonist is actually called Father J. Brown, though we are never told what the initial stands for, and is originally presented as the parish priest of Cobhole in Essex, though he is found in parishes as far afield as Italy and South America. In appearance he is undistinguished, small and dumpy, short-sighted and not particularly intelligent; dressed in shabby clerical black, and carrying an umbrella as dumpy and shabby as himself.The Father Brownmysteries generally appeared first as independent short stories in various magazines; (most of) the stories were eventually collected in a series of five books:
The Innocence of Father Brown (1911)
The Wisdom of Father Brown (1914)
The Incredulity of Father Brown (1926)
The Secret of Father Brown (1927), and
The Scandal of Father Brown (1935).
Three stories, "The Donnington Affair" (1914) (GKC writing the solution of a mystery set up by Max Pemberton), "The Vampire of the Village" (1936), and "The Mask of Midas" (1936), were published separately, though the second of these was later included in editions of Scandal.In 1934 a film version of Chesterton's priest based on "The Blue Cross"' appeared with the title Father Brown, Detective, with Walter Connelly in the title rôle. In 1954 Father Brown (U.S. title, The Detective) appeared with Alec Guinness as the eponymous priest. Heinz Rühmann played Father Brown in two German adaptations of Chesterton's stories, Das schwarze Schaf ("The Black Sheep") (1960) and Er kann's nicht lassen ("He Can't Stop Doing It") (1962). (The score to these, by Martin Böttcher, became very popular in Germany.) In 1970 an Italian television series entitled I racconti di padre Brown ("The Tales of Father Brown") starred the well-known Italian comedian Renato Rascel. In 1974, Kenneth More starred in a 13-episode Father Brown TV series, each episode adapted from one of Chesterton's short stories. In 1979, the TV move Sanctuary of Fear featured an American Father Brown (Barnard Hughes) sleuthing in contemporary New York City.. but the protagonist's only resemblances to Chesterton's character are his name and occupation. A German television series, Pfarrer Braun ("Pastor Brown"), loosely based on the Chesterton character, is in production since 2003; its title theme by Martin Böttcher is a Shout-Out to the one of the Heinz Rühmann films. A 2013 TV series produced by the BBC cast Mark Williams of The Fast Show and Harry Potter fame in the title role. The trope page for that show can be found here.
Tropes featured in this series include: (Note that the following examples are heavy on spoilers!)
Accidental Innuendo: The Red Moon of Meru features a doctor peddling the then-popular, now long discredited practice of measuring intelligence by the curves of a person's head. He walks up to a fashionable lady and offers to "feel her bumps."
The aversion of this trope is lampshaded in Father Brown's very first story, "The Blue Cross"
"...But, as a matter of fact, another part of my trade, too, made me sure you weren't a priest."
"What?" asked the thief, almost gaping.
"You attacked reason," said Father Brown. "It's bad theology."
From the same story: "Has it never struck you that a man who does next to nothing but hear men's real sins is not likely to be wholly unaware of human evil?"
Be My Valentine: Aristide Valentin in "The Blue Cross" and "The Secret Garden."
Beneath Notice: In "The Invisible Man," a man is murdered and witnesses say they saw nobody. Father Brown figures out that the murderer was dressed as a postman, and the witnesses didn't pay any attention to him.
Blue Blood: Despite GKC's very commonly expressed dislike of aristocratic systems of government, his work abounds in noblemen, both sympathetic and unsympathetic, e.g., in "The Purple Wig." Some of them are even of real aristocratic lineage, too.
Brown Note: "The Blast Of The Book" revolves around a book that is reported to drive anyone who reads even a few words of it to self-destruction.
Dead Person Impersonation: In one story, the murderer almost gets away by putting on a bathrobe and pretending to be the man Father Brown was trying to find. In another, the murderer pretends to be his victim, blatantly displays his victim's corpse (disguised as someone else's), fakes 'his' suicide, and gets away. In yet another, someone in a duel pretends to die, later shoots his antagonist, and to avoid detection pretends to be that antagonist, shutting himself away out of guilt.
If Jesus Then Aliens: Defied. Father Brown is quite devout, but doesn't believe in anything supernatural at first sight, and is very quick to correct those who attempt to use this logic themselves. Multiple mysteries are mistaken for miracles, curses or what have you, and Brown is usually there to prove that they are quite mundane and staged to look supernatural.
‘Yes,’ answered Father Brown, ‘I believe in miracles. I believe in man-eating tigers, but I don’t see them running about everywhere. If I want any miracles, I know where to get them.’
Intrepid Reporter: Not a positive example. He observed Father Brown helping a woman run from an ugly man with a handsome one and, assuming it's a typical Ugly Guy, Hot Wife scenario, immediately sent a story about how a priest broke a sacred marriage, ruining his reputation. The ugly one was the lover.
Mistaken for Servant: Used in at least two of the stories, "The Queer Feet" and "The Strange Crime of John Boulnois."
Moral Event Horizon: Discussed in-universe in "The Sign of the Broken Sword". Being a greedy and corrupted traitor? Not okay. Killing the one who found out about that? Real bad. Killing half the regiment so that no one would suspect the deceased as anything but another casualty of war? There we go.
Pepper Sneeze: In "The Salad of Colonel Cray," a key clue to the mystery is some unexplained sneezes heard near the scene of the crime. It is eventually explained that the criminal sneezed when throwing away to the dustbin the pepper that could have been used to counter the action of the poison he was planning to use.
Police Are Useless: A police detective complains about this trope in one story. He points out that while the police may not be as intuitively brilliant as the average fictional detective, they are not even shown as having the virtues they do have such as storing and sharing information.
Waiter: 'The parson at the door he says all serene, 'Sorry to confuse your accounts, but it'll pay for the window.' 'What window?' I says. 'The one I'm going to break,' he says, and smashed that blessed pane with his umbrella.
Seen It All: The vast (even shocking) experience of GKC's friend Father John O'Connor so impressed him that he fictionalized the priest in the form of Father Brown, whose first story, "The Blue Cross," is based upon this trope.
Sherlock Scan: Subverted in "The Absence of Mr Glass," in which some characters involve a brilliant criminologist in a domestic case, where he concludes with a sinister and dramatic interpretation of some facts. Dramatic and totally false. The apparent killer is only a stage magician, so that the cards, the knives, the swords and the mysteriously large top hat have a very simple explanation. At the end of the tale, everyone (including the criminologist) is laughing.