1/1: The Hammer of God

Oh, Christmastide; oh, Christmastide – and since I am officially On Holiday I thought I would entertain myself with some telly. Suitably British, of course. Here beginneth: 12 days of Father Brown.*

* May not actually be posted in successive 12 days. 

I will of course begin my telly-watching experience recalling the noted similarities between classic ‘English village’ detective novels and functionalism’s last stand, community studies. I may be on holiday, but I’m still an anthropologist. (Warning: I may warm to this theme in coming days.)

Oh, I’ve warmed to the theme already because, lo! we’re in a typicalEnglishvillage™ (down South, of course) and the vicar is having a tea party. There are scones, which is a distraction, as are the 1950s frocks. Everyone knows everyone and it’s all very jovial. There’s even Lady So-and-So, in a particularly fetching hat.

There’s promptly an end to the joviality when Menacing Man From the Opening Scene rolls up in horn-honking, snazzy car style. And promptly gets into some rationing-is-over wine swigging.

I’d skipped over the opening scene in my urge to leap lightly from functionalism to scones, but since it’s rather important, here it is: Menacing Man has been forcing sexual favours from a local woman, under the threat of horrid things happening to her husband. As we learn soon enough, said husband is the village blacksmith, and a burly lad he is, too. And as we learn shortly after, Menacing Man is the vicar’s prodigal brother.

Father Brown has already made his entrance as a hummock of stomach in cassock and hat. He’s quizzical, he’s sensible, he appreciates a good scone.

And over a scone I shall momentarily leave him while I get on to the murder.

Which of this village-y village crew is most likely to get brained with a hammer? Menacing Man, of course. Nobody liked him anyway.

We duly meet the police inspector, and we know he is because he’s wearing a trench coat. He heads straight for suspect number one, Burly Blacksmith (who had earlier rumbled Mrs Blacksmith on whose furnace she was stoking). Seeing the motive and the forge hammer, Mrs Blacksmith duly makes a bid for martyrdom by announcing that she dunnit.

Father Brown can come back now, because if there’s one thing he’s thinking, it’s that she didn’t.

The rest of the episode is an unfurling of various other whodunnit options, with Father Brown variously riding a bike, stickybeaking and playing wise counsellor.

I do want to mention the interesting post-war sub-plot of a Polish woman and an immigrants’ camp. The Nissen huts are a nice intrusion in an otherwise standardised rurality. She’s also briefly a suspect because she’s foreign. And suspicious.

There’s also another bit of plotting in the lineage of the BBC does The Body in the Library: there is an only gay in the village. And Father Brown doesn’t mind because he’s extraordinarily liberal for 1950s Catholicism. (Or 2010s Catholicism.)

I shan’t break the confessional and announce who actually did done it, suffice to say that the CofE doesn’t come off too well (while the Catholics win out on scones).