In the Father Brown series, the detective short story came of age. The world portrayed in the stories reflects the real world. The stories are not meant merely to entertain, for example, by presenting an intriguing puzzle that is solved by a computer-like sleuth who possesses and applies a superhuman logic, à la Sherlock Holmes. Instead, Father Brown, by virtue of his role as a parish priest who has heard numerous confessions, has a better-than-average insight into the real state of human nature. Such insight allows the priest-sleuth to identify with the criminal, then to apply sheer commonsense reasoning to uncover the criminal’s identity. G. K. Chesterton is interested in exposing and exploring spiritual and moral issues, rather than merely displaying the techniques of crime and detection.
The Father Brown stories, like all Chesterton’s fictional works, are a vehicle for presenting his religious worldview to a wider audience. They popularize the serious issues with which Chesterton wrestled in such nonfictional works as Orthodoxy (1908) and The Everlasting Man (1925).