23/03/2011

The Man who Knew too Much (by G K Chesterton)

I have quite an admiration for GK Chesterton, perhaps best known for his 'Father Brown' mysteries. He also wrote some theology books, and is highly respected in the Christian writing world. I struggle a bit with some of the long-windedness of the Father Brown books, but have enjoyed the stories, so was pleased to see some of his works available, free, for the Kindle.

'The man who knew too much' is a book of short stories featuring Horne Fisher, an amateur sleuth, who, in his own words, always knows too much. He understands quite a bit about human psychology, and is also aware of a great many other details about people and events that are missed by most of those around him.

I enjoyed most of the earlier stories in the book, while finding them a bit lengthy and over-detailed in places. But there were some unusual situations, and Fisher seemed a likeable person. I didn't find myself racing through the book - it took me three weeks to get through it, usually reading about half a chapter at a time.

However, towards the end, the book takes a decidedly political turn. Suddenly, rather than solving mysteries, we hear of Horne Fisher's early forays into the political world, and learn of several of his relatives, also politicians. I found it impossible to keep track of who was whom - the names were too similar, and while the plotting is clever, the characters mostly felt rather flat.

The final story was the worst of all, in my opinion.  It features more political intrigue, an over-gory scene in the middle, and a highly unpleasant ending. It was quite bad enough to make me determine that I would not to read this book again, and to be glad that I had downloaded the free version although it's available in print editions too.

Probably worth reading once, although I wouldn't recommend the last two stories.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 23rd March 2011

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