A Priest for All Seasons: Murder, Mystery, and Contentment in Father Brown and Grantchester

Christ and Pop Culture | 10/30/2017 | Amanda Martinez Beck
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This post is featured in the CAPC Magazine, Special Summer Edition: Some Some Summertime issue of Christ and Pop Culture Magazine. Subscribe to Christ and Pop Culture Magazine by becoming a member and receive a host of other benefits, too.

When I learned about ITV’s Grantchester on PBS Masterpiece Mystery—a single Anglican priest near Cambridge helps the police solve murders—I couldn’t help myself. I had to watch it. I have been a big fan of the BBC’s Father Brown mysteries, and any show that brings my three big literary loves together—mystery, England, and the Church—deserves a watch, in my opinion.

Glance - Premises - Grantchester - Father - Brown

At first glance, the premises of Grantchester and Father Brown are similar enough. Both shows star a devout priest with considerable skill in solving murder mysteries in the English countryside. (Reader beware: you want to spend as much time in the locales of these shows as you would spend in Murder She Wrote’s Cabot Cove, because the per capita murder rate is astronomical.) Both protagonists are single and committed to their celibacy, although Grantchester’s Anglican vicar Sidney Chambers has the possibility of marriage, while the Catholic Father Brown does not. Both shows are set in the ten years after World War II, as Britain is still recovering from the losses of life and stability she sustained.

As a practicing Catholic, I know that confession must occur even in the summertime, when the confessional booth is stuffy and both priest and penitent are itching to be elsewhere.

Father - Brown - Kind - Mid-century - Priest/police

Father Brown is formulaic, a kind of mid-century British priest/police procedural. There are five consistent characters: Father Brown, the busybody church secretary Mrs. McCarthy, the sensual socialite Lady Felicia, the conman-turned-friend Sidney Carter, and whichever police inspector is currently in charge of keeping the peace in the village of Kembleford. Inevitably, Father Brown will be in the right...
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