Published in 1905 and now available in the Wordsworth Classics series, 'The Club of Queer Trades' is one of the least known of Chesterton stories. The ex-judge turned amateur detective Basil Grant is certainly barely known compared to Chesterton's other unconventional detective, Father Brown. This is a gentle and witty parody of the Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson stories, and the comparison with the Basil Grant and Charles Swinburne duo is clear without being overdone. The plot (without revealing all), revolves around the detection of the fraudulent and rather mad activities of the said Club. Humour, insight, and action are equally required in the detection of the activities of the members of the organisation known as the Club of Queer Trades, who are after all, only trying to earn a semi-honest crust. The nature of their business is so bizarre and arcane, who can blame them if they occasionally walk on the wrong side of the law or bill the wrong person?
Naturally, Basil Grant solves the crime. Without giving away the climax of the plot, it is enough to say that one set of eccentrics must chase the other all over London and all involvements with the police are eventually laughed off. In keeping with the metaphysical nature of Basil's approach there are conmen, old ladies imprisoned in basements, and fierce fist fights - but none of these amounts to so much a legal crime as a moral crime. Perhaps I should not reveal it, but even Basil is not as innocent as he might be.
This report prepared by Michael JR Jose