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by Gilbert Keith Chesterton

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Download The Man Who Knew Too Much epub
ISBN: 1142281957
ISBN13: 978-1142281953
Category: Literature
Subcategory: Contemporary
Author: Gilbert Keith Chesterton
Language: English
Publisher: Nabu Press (January 2, 2010)
Pages: 384 pages
ePUB size: 1497 kb
FB2 size: 1209 kb
Rating: 4.3
Votes: 795
Other Formats: mbr rtf docx txt

Let's face it- you either like late Victorian/early 20th century mysteries or you don't. There doesn't seem to be any middle ground. The language is more formal and, in the short stories especially, the mysteries tend to be simpler, less complex than later works. It isn't until later in the era with Sayres , Marsh, Christie etc that the stories seem to connect with modern readers.

It happens that I do enjoy these mysteries and other fiction from that time and have been reading a lot of it lately. I wasn't familiar with Chesterton other than some Father Brown short stories so I thought I would try this free kindle version of "The Man Who Knew Too Much" (Nothing to do with the Hitchcock movies, by the way:-))

I'm not surprised now that I had never met Thorne Fisher, "The Man Who Knew Too Much". Set in the years leading up to WWI and heavily involved with the politics of the time, initially these stories seemed to be standard fare for the genre. But there was a subtle subversive twist in each one, rare in mysteries especially at that time, that kept me interested. Then in the final two stories, the full picture emerges. All of the stories coalesce and this becomes, not a collection of short stories, but a striking novel. Publishing one story separate from the others would completely ruin the impact of the whole.

If I were rating this book based on one or two stories, I would probably have given it four stars- three as OK for its genre and one for that unusual twist. But taken as a whole, I have to say I love it. I think it is far more than most of its contemporaries.
I'm a Russian Occupant
I chose this book on a whim because it was short, and I figured that even I (with all the distractions of homeschooling) could make it through quickly. Well! The book actually took FOREVER to read.... because I continuously needed to go back and re-read the good parts. And there were so many good parts! The author is so deliciously descriptive that you just want to memorize the whole thing. A fun detective read, and an interesting look into the attitudes, social biases, and prejudices of the time period.
Boy was I fooled by the charming snarky first mystery, because the adventures of Horne Fisher only get weirder and just a little bit more and more depressing as you go along. Horne Fisher is cynical, snarky, a genius, and adamantly patriotic. It's no spoiler to say that every mystery ends with Fisher deducing the improbable series of events...and then just lets the darn murderer go for some greater good. And that schtick is both fascinating and really, really frustrating after a while.

I liked "The Vanishing Prince" a lot, which had a clever solution to the mystery of how the heck one guy absolutely wrecked a group of policemen when he was surrounded on all sides. When Chesterton hits his stride, his writing is delightfully witty and unravels in surprising ways. At worst, the setups get so convoluted with red herrings you shrug and say, "What? What was that all about?" The last story, "The Vengeance of the Statue," is --for better or for worse-- a logical end to Horne Fisher's adventures...cranked up to eleven at the last moments.

Now, I listened to Harold Wiederman's audiobook narration. I'm a big fan of audiobooks, but I think this doesn't work for audiobook at all. So much of Chesterton's witty prose and Horne Fisher's clever reveals are "blink and you miss it;" it doesn't help that Wiederman's voices (as comfortingly British as his voice is) sound kinda the same and monotone. Save yourself a lot of confusion and just read it yourself at your own pace.
"The Man Who Knew Too Much" is an enjoyable read about the dirty world of politics and intrigue. Horne Fisher (equivalent to Sherlock) Harold March (equivalent to Watson) discover in less than obvious ways conclusions to heinous crimes and dirty dealings.

But unfortunately, this book is realistic. The good guys do not win. And the bad guys do not lose. This then is from Chesterton, part mystery and part political commentary of the corruption of the English government during his time. For Chesterton things are never as they seem--and the man who knows too much is too enveloped in the muck to do anything about it.

I like Chesterton, and this is well written. However, I prefer Orthodoxy and Manalive to the rapid mysteries in quick succession in this volume. Many times I lost track of Chesterton in the midst of a twist due to the amount of characters he had introduced.

Still, a good read. And if you like it you should try Orthodoxy.