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Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Video: The Hammer of God: A Classic Blacksmith Detective Mystery, Courtesy of "Father Brown" on the Hoof Blog

In this mystery of riddles, a man lies dead in the churchyard. The blacksmith's hammer is found nearby. Surely he committed the murder.

But not so fast...
When you go to school to learn the craft of mystery plot writing, this is one of the stories that you study. Now BBC television has incorporated this classic riddle web by G.K. Chesteron into an episode of a popular weekly television show.

The Hoof Blog shares the one-hour telecast in this article...but you should read about it first.

Did the blacksmith do it?
British readers may have already seen this but PBS is now launching the show in regions across the United States, with "The Hammer of God" as the introductory episode.

"Father Brown" is a compulsively curious--you might call him nosy--Catholic priest in a country village in the Cotswolds area of England soon after World War II. He rides a bicycle, but there are lots of horses in various plot details or in background scenery. The landscapes are lush and rural and all the crimes are solved without any modern technology. Father Brown doesn't even need a telephone to solve his weekly murders.

But back to the churchyard: The story was rewritten for television but in the original story, much is made of the size of the hammer used to kill the victim, which is on the small side,  and the size of the hammer compared to the severity of the blow to the victim's skull, which is severe.

For television, the hammer is pretty big, which is an interesting twist in itself.

Or did the blacksmith's wife do it because she's tired of living in the cutest cottage in the Cotswolds?
The author reasons, "The two riddles are how the little hammer and the big blow fit the suspects. The smith might have struck the big blow, but would not have chosen the little hammer. His wife would have chosen the little hammer, but she could not have struck the big blow."

And no one was seen leaving the scene of the crime. So whodunit? Father  Brown takes on the case in his usual bumbling-but-brilliant style and sorts out the saints from the sinners and everyone in between.

Set aside an hour and watch this, or read the short story.  Both the blacksmith and his wife had good reason to kill the victim, but did they? And with all the tools hanging in her kitchen, would the wife need to take one of her husband's hammers?

The video will expire in mid-September and will hopefully be replaced by an alternate host of the same story, if possible. You can usually find Father Brown video on demand on local PBS stations or on Amazon Video on Demand. There's also an older 1970s version of Father Brown and the Hammer of God on AcornTV. It probably has another twist on the hammer!

Read the original short story here.

How would you plan the perfect murder using the tools in a village blacksmith shop? Leave a comment and share you plot!

Sign photo at top was taken at Blists Hill Victorian Town Ironbridge Gorge Museums in Coalbrookdale, Telford, in Shropshire, England, by Leo Reynolds. Thanks, Leo.

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