More crimes to solve and villains to bring to account in volume five
Gilbert Keith Chesterton was one of the most influential English writers of the twentieth century. He put his mind and pen to a broad spectrum of subjects including theology, poetry, biography, journalism and philosophy. Great writers have no influence over those parts of their work which posterity decides is most significant or will be best remembered, in Chesterton's case—in the minds of many—he will forever be remembered as the creator of the little Roman Catholic priest-detective, Father Brown. The vitality of that character has endured, evergreen, never losing its charm. Chesterton, was a lover of detective and mystery fiction and his own contribution to the genre extends far beyond the Father Brown stories. Leonaur has collected Chesterton's fabulous, intriguing and entertaining mysteries—in order of original book publication—into six substantial volumes to enable his many aficionados to own and read them in either softcover or hardback with dust jacket for collectors. This collection is the ideal way to possess these essential books of crime, mystery and detection and no enthusiast's library will be complete without them.
Volume five of this special Chesterton collection sees the introduction of a new detective—Gabriel Gale graces the pages of 'The Poet and the Lunatics' with eight essential stories to enjoy. In 'Four Faultless Felons’, the second collection is this volume, there are six more intriguing pieces among them the curiously titled 'The Moderate Murderer' and 'The Ecstatic Thief'. A delight for crime fiction fans everywhere.
Pressed against the dark window-pane, but only wanly luminous as it protruded out of the darkness, was a large face looking at first rather like a green goblin mask in a pantomime. Yet it was in no sense human; its eyes were set in large circles, rather in the fashion of an owl. But the glimmering covering that faintly showed on it was not of feathers, but of scales.
The next moment it had vanished. The mind of the poet, which made images as rapidly as a cinema, even in a crisis of action, had already imagined a string of fancies about the sort of creature he saw it to be. He had thought involuntarily of some great flying fish winging its way across the foam, and the flat sand and the spire and roofs of the fishing village. He had half-imagined the moist sea air thickening in some strange way to a greener and more liquid atmosphere in which the marine monsters could swim about in the streets. He had entertained the fancy that the house itself stood in the depths of the sea, and that the great goblin-headed fishes were nosing round it, as round the cabin windows of a wreck. <br>
At that moment a loud voice was heard outside crying in distinct accents:<br>
“The fish has legs.”<br>
For that instant, it seemed to give the last touch to the monstrosity. But the meaning of it came back to them, a returning reality, with the laughing face of Dr. Wilkes as he reappeared in the doorway, panting.<br>
“Our fish had two legs, and used them,” he said. “He ran like a hare when he saw me coming; but I could see plainly enough it was a man playing you a trick of some sort. So much for that psychic phenomenon.”<br>
He paused and looked at Sir Owen Cram with a smile that was keen and almost suspicious.<br>
“One thing is very clear to me,” he said. “You have an enemy.”<br>
The mystery of the human fish, however, did not long remain even a primary topic of conversation in a social group that had so many topics of conversation. They continued to pursue their hobbies and pelt each other with their opinions; even the smooth and silent Simon being gradually drawn into the discussions, in which he showed a dry and somewhat cynical dexterity. Sir Owen continued to paint with all the passion of an amateur. Gale continued to neglect to paint, with all the nonchalance of a painter. Mr. Boon was presumably still as busy with his wicked Bible and his good Philistines as Dr. Wilkes with his museum and his microscopic marine animals, when the little seaside town was shaken as by an earthquake with the incomprehensible calamity which spread its name over all the newspapers of the country.<br>
Gabriel Gale was scaling the splendid swell of turf that terminated in the great chalk cliff above the shore, in a mood consonant to the sunrise that was storming the skies above him. Clouds haloed with sunshine were already sailing over his head as if sent flying from a flaming wheel; and when he came to the brow of the cliff he saw one of those rare revelations when the sun does not seem to be merely the most luminous object in a luminous landscape, but itself the solitary focus and streaming fountain of all light. The tide was at the ebb, and the sea was only a strip of delicate turquoise over which rose the tremendous irradiation. Next to the strip of turquoise was a strip of orange sand, still wet, and nearer the sand was a desert of a more dead yellow or brown, growing paler in the increasing light. And as he looked down from the precipice upon that plain of pale gold, he saw two black objects lying in the middle of it. One was a small easel, still standing, with a camp-stool fallen beside it; the other was the flat and sprawling figure of a man.<br>
The figure did not move, but as he stared he became conscious that another human figure was moving, was walking over the flat sands towards it from under the shadow of the cliff. Looking at it steadily, he saw that it was the man called Simon; and in an instant he seemed to realize that the motionless figure was that of Sir Owen Cram. He hastened to the stairway down the cliff and so to the sands; and soon stood face to face with Simon; for they both looked at each other for a moment before they both looked down at the body. The conviction was already cold in his heart that it was a dead body. Nevertheless, he said sharply: “We must have a doctor; where is Dr. Wilkes?”<br>
“It is no good, I fear,” said Simon, looking away at the sea.<br>
“Wilkes may only confirm our fears that he is dead,” said Gale, “but he may have something to say about how he died.”<br>
“True,” said the other, “I will go for him myself.” And he walked back rapidly towards the cliff in the track of his own foot-prints.<br>
Indeed, it was at the foot-prints that Gale was gazing in a bemused fashion at that moment. The tracks of his own coming were clear enough, and the tracks of Simon’s coming and going; and the third rather more rambling track of the unmistakable boots of the unfortunate Sir Owen, leading up to the spot where his easel was planted. And that was all. The sand was soft, so that the lightest foot would disturb it; it was well above the tides; and there was not the faintest trace of any other human being having been near the body. Yet the body had a deep wound under the angle of the jaw; and there was no sign of any weapon of suicide.