Showing posts with label Father Brown. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Father Brown. Show all posts

24 November 2018

ACK Not Again! Five Crime Series Plots that Deserve to Die

by Melodie Campbell  (Bad Girl)

You have to admire the Brits.  If they have a successful crime series, they don't automatically grow it
beyond one season (Midsomer, excepted.)  But the trouble with most crime series filmed, and also successful crime series in print, is they go beyond their best before date.  And by this I mean, they start to run out of plots - healthy original plots - and search madly for something, anything they haven't done before, including things that have been done to death <sic>.  The following tropes drive me crazy.

1.  The protagonist sleuth is the murder suspect.
By far, this one has me fired up to throw things.  Inevitably, every long-running series has one episode where the Detective Inspector, the PI or the well-respected amateur sleuth, becomes the prime suspect for a murder well into the series.  Into jail they go.  They've done it with Father Brown.  They've done it with Don Matteo.  Hinterland.  You name it.  Whenever I see this happening, I grit my teeth.  Why?

That plot is boring, man.  Obviously, they didn't do it.  If they did, then it is 'series over'.  And it can't be series over, because there are several episodes left, or a new season to download, and I can see that right on the screen.  So all we're doing is tediously waiting for the sidekicks to get proof that our beloved protagonist didn't do it.

2.  The protagonist and/or sidekick is held hostage.
This is the second plot trope that has me screaming Italian curse words at the screen.  This month, it was Don Matteo and Rosewood.  You can name others.  And again, this is boring. If they are all killed and don't get out, end of show.  But there are more episodes, so they obviously get away.  If we know the ending at the beginning, what's the pleasure in watching?

3.  The police officer protagonist is hated by his immediate superior.
One of the reasons I like Endeavor is because Morse's boss Thursday is such a good guy to young Morse.  In so many shows, including the original Morse, the detective superintendent or chief constable behaves like an out-of-control teen, lambasting our hero with manic fury.  He hates the protagonist, for no good reason we can see.  Or is it that he is so insecure, he can't stand someone who makes him and his department look good?  How demeaning.  By all that's holy, make this stop. 

4.  Young female sargeant has affair with older boss.
Okay, we all learned in the 80s and 90s: you don't have an affair with your boss.  It's stupid. It's career-killing.  It's also unethical, if he's married or you're married.  And yet, time after time we see this on the screen.  STILL.  IN 2018.

I cringe, because it perpetuates the ancient stereotype that young female police officers are not serious about their jobs.  They are slaves to their emotions.  They are willing to risk all for romance.  Writers, DON'T take me back to the seventies.  Just don't.

5.  The male Detective Inspector invites prime female suspect/witness to a romantic dinner.
Similar to the 'affair with the boss' above, this scenario gives high-ranking police officers I've talked to apoplexy.  No police officer is that idiotic.

Look, we all understand that tension is ramped up if there is personal involvement.  But come on, writers!  Don't make our extremely professional boys (and girls) in blue look adolescent.  It's insulting.

Just do the right thing.  Tell us a damn good story. And wrap things up before you sink to these tropes.

Melodie Campbell writes seriously wild comedy. You can find her latest crime books (The Bootlegger's Goddaughter and The B-Team) at all the usual suspects.  See this latest ad in Mystery Scene Magazine.   www.melodiecampbell.com




13 July 2015

Father Brown

by Janice Law

I realized lately that I am ready for a new man – at least in the realm of mystery fiction. Oh, there’s lots of good ones around, although I’ve never really forgiven Henning Mankel for saddling poor Kurt Wallander with Alzheimer’s. Some other good detectives have unfortunate habits, especially with regard to wives and girl friends. Aside from James Bond, it used to be safe for a woman to date a sleuth. No more; death or divorce are surely in her future.

 Consider the poor spouses of Inspector Lynley and George Gently, bumped off by villains. Shetland’s Jimmy Perez lost his wife to illness, Jackson Brody of Case Histories lost his to divorce, as did Wallander, while other significant others have faced assault, kidnapping, and worse. As for handsome Sidney Chambers of Grantchester, who carries a torch for his former girlfriend, he doesn’t recognize a promising woman when he finally meets one.

But there is a bright spot for me and, although my Calvinist ancestors will be stirring in their chilly Scots graves, it is Father Brown. Created before WWI by G.K. Chesterton, the pastor of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in the Cotswolds, started out as a hyper-observant, hyper-logical sleuth in the Sherlock Holmes mold – if one can imagine the aloof and acerbic Holmes as a small, innocuous looking Catholic priest.

The stories are short, puzzle pieces, very clever  but longer on ingenuity than on characterization or psychology. The good Father is basically an observer with not a lot of personality, odd, given that he was apparently based on a real priest, indeed, the one who converted Chesterton. The stories are old fashioned with a fair number based on interest in, and fears of, ideas and people from the rest of the Empire – shades of Wilkie Collins’ great The Moonstone. Published from before the war up through the 1920’s they are very much period pieces, mostly in a good way.

Television, which so often spoils good stories, has in this case made something quite attractive. Cognizant of our bloodthirsty tastes, Father Brown now investigates mostly murders in contrast to the robberies that seem to have been a staple of the originals. The series has been moved into the post WW2 era, provided Father Brown with a supporting cast, and, thanks to Mark Williams, made him a dynamic and sympathetic character.

There’s more than a touch of Friar Tuck in this iteration of the sleuthing cleric. Rotund but energetic, Williams’ Father Brown likes to eat and drink, despite the efforts of his parish secretary, Mrs. McCarthy, to watch his waistline. He likes any kind of merriment, he is an indefatigable cyclist, and he has friendships with a wide range of characters, respectable and not. Is he full of angst and doubt? No way. Is he tormented by what one must say is a rather too enthusiastic pursuit of crime? Not at all. Confident that he serves a higher power, Father Brown is free to indulge his curiosity and to enlist the rest of his little circle in the pursuit of justice.


They are an odd bunch. Mrs. McCarthy is a self-important, narrow minded woman with a heart of gold, especially when pointed in the right direction by Father Brown. Lady Felicia, glamorous and intrepid with a wandering eye, manages to stay just on the right side of respectability. Sid, her chauffeur and a man who can turn his hand to everything from righting a motor to impersonating a seminarian, is an invaluable, if not always honest, assistant for Father Brown.
Add the usual bumbling officers – the ones in this series are addicted to the quick solution, a habit that opens the door wide for Father Brown’s interference – and you have a nice grade of cozy mystery.

What takes the best of the episodes out of the cute range, though, is something else, Father Brown’s optimism about people and about the ever present possibility for repentance and salvation. Not particularly orthodox and certainly not at all cowed by his ecclesiastical superiors, he nonetheless suggests that a deep and genuine faith is behind his joy in living and his patience with and pleasure in his neighbors. As such, the good father is a nice corrective to the doubt and depression that have become almost de rigueur for popular detectives.