Father Brown [1954]

What Agatha Christie did for genteel spinsters with her intrepid crime-solver Miss Marple, G.K. Chesterton did with the splendid Father Brown, a bumbling yet wily cleric in 1920s England, bumping into and then solving the most outlandish crimes. This boxed set includes seven full-length episodes of Father Brown (shown in the U.S. on PBS) in all his twinkly, slightly clueless glory. The Curse of the Golden Cross is a particular gem, ambitious in its story of an American archeologist who receives eerie death threats from a hidden competitor (or is it a ghost?) upon his discovery of an important ancient cross. As the archeologist returns to England to view what is reportedly a second, heretofore unknown cross, dug up at a country church, an upper crust entourage gathers 'round him--and Father Brown, of course--as he makes his way to the site. "A curse! How splendid!" says one aging flapper upon learning that the newest find may have crossed the gods in an irrevocable way. Despite the varying production values (the show switches from film for outdoor shots to video for indoors), the intricate plots (mistaken identities, hidden adultery, faked suicides) make for a very satisfying armchair detective experience. Spot on, this. --A.T. Hurley

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