The stories in this collection have a great deal in common with Chesterton’s FATHER BROWN mysteries. Like Father Brown, former-judge Basil Grant initially comes across as an odd, ineffectual little man who speaks in riddles and lives with his head in the clouds. But, just as with Father Brown, the seeming nonsense that Basil speaks is actually the very solution that the more literal-minded (and unimaginative) detectives are looking for.
As he so often does, G.K. Chesterton revels in poking fun at the Sherlock Holmes school of deduction. In Chesterton’s world, knowing a bunch of facts won’t get you anywhere. The important thing is understanding people–both as individuals and as a societal whole. Chesterton takes great pleasure in deviating from Conan Doyle’s formula, but, in THE CLUB OF QUEER TRADES, he does somewhat borrow Doyle’s tactic of writing from the first-person perspective of a sidekick.
For me, THE CLUB OF QUEER TRADES is superior to any of the FATHER BROWN collections for two reasons:
(1.) each story is more consistently entertaining the whole way through, and
(2.) Basil’s wild antics are a good deal more amusing than Father Brown’s quiet brilliance. I also prefer it to any of the SHERLOCK HOLMES collections, but that’s just me. The scope of Chesterton’s wit never ceases to bowl me over…especially the way he tosses out brilliant philosophical insight as easily as breadcrumbs.