The Donnington Affair is an intriguing example of a detective story with multiple authors (a idea that would enjoy a considerable vogue during the golden age of detective fiction). The first half of The Donnington Affair was written by Sir Max Pemberton and published in October 1914. It gives us the set-up and the murder. Pemberton challenged G.K. Chesterton to provide the solution. The second half of the story, published in the same periodical a month later, was written by Chesterton and describes Father Brown’s solution to the mystery.
Pemberton’s mystery is ingenious enough. It involves bitter family quarrels, a son who has turned (although not with any great success) to crime and a country house riddled with secrets. There’s no shortage of suspects but the time and the place of the murder presents problems for any would-be detective.
Chesterton’s little priest-detective was certainly fascinated by criminal puzzles but he was always more interested in crimes as spiritual and moral puzzles rather then mere intellectual games. Chesterton in this case succeeds reasonably well in making this into an authentic Father Brown mystery.
The Donnington Affair is included (along with a couple of previously uncollected tales) in the Penguin Classics Complete Father Brown Stories.
The Donnington Affair might not be one of the best Father Brown stories but fans of the priestly sleuth will find that it’s worth checking out.