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In the first story of Father Brown, "The Blue Cross", we are introduced to the police chief Valentine, who is supposedly a very good detective. As a reader we might even expect this to be the start of a long working relationship. Like Holmes and Lestrade, or Poirot and Japp. But surprisingly there is no such joy here, because in the very second story, "Secret Garden", Valentine is revealed to be the killer, and he commits suicide. There were some religious connotations with why Valentine did what he did. I am curious if there was some history behind this? Was Chesterton going to have a Lestrade-like character but decided against it due to some real-life incidents? Father Brown is seriously distraught about the anti-church stance Valentine has in the second story. A little too emotionally invested, maybe.

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  • I think you've answered your own question here: "As a reader we might even expect ..." Sep 1, 2022 at 8:44
  • @GarethRees How so? I was expecting it to go one way it went the polar opposite Sep 1, 2022 at 9:07
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    Yes, that's how mystery stories work! If it went how you expected it wouldn't be a mystery. Sep 1, 2022 at 9:13
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    Are you asking about why the author would decide to do that, why it makes sense narratively, what character motivations are behind the turn...? Those are separate questions
    – bobble
    Sep 1, 2022 at 22:43

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Because it makes a hell of a twist in the story.

In the first place because the reader is expecting the police detective to become a recurring character, so he is the last person the reader will suspect.

Secondly, the story involves a beheaded corpse, where the head has been substituted for another head. This basically requires that the murderer is a French police detective with access to guillotined heads. Not many other people could find a human head when they need one.

I suspect that Chesterton wrote the second story first, then wrote a specifically French detective into the first story, just to use the twist.

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  • That is a great reasoning for that! Sep 3, 2022 at 15:43
  • I suspect that, while Valentine was a completely rational man, that wasn't a type that Chesterton admired; his Father Brown was distinguished by his insight.
    – Barnaby
    Sep 24, 2022 at 1:50

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