Saturday, 19 March 2011

The Valley of Fear - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Published: 1915
Price: £3.39 for Print Version Here or Free E-Book Version Here

The Valley of Fear is the latest Sherlock Holmes story that I have read and I was happy to find that it was a full length novel which I prefer, rather than a collection of short stories. I ended up rocketing through the novel which in my opinion was a superb tale of mystery, fear & tyranny that stretched from an English country manor to the American coal fields.

Basically, we have the standard Sherlock Holmes mystery story with Holmes initially receiving a coded message from an employee of Holmes's nemesis, Professor Moriarty informing him that someone is in severe danger. However, before he can act, another message arrives informing him that the very man mentioned has now died. We then follow the investigation into the death from confirming it wasn't suicide to trying to pin down what had actually occurred that night and why it had happened.

It is written in a similar style to the first ever Sherlock Holmes novel "A Study in Scarlet" in that it is split into two parts, with Holmes solving the murder during the first part, before the motive behind the crime is revealed in the second. I will comment here that the second part occurs at a much earlier date in America and therefore Sherlock Holmes himself plays virtually no role in it. However, I did enjoy it as it was a fascinating story with a good twist at the end and is necessary in order to gain a proper understanding of the reasons behind the death explored in the first part of the novel.

One issue I did note with the novel however was that actually with the involvement of Professor Moriarty. The story is set before "The Final Problem", the short story in which Moriarty was actually introduced, and therefore it produces a canon timeline inaccuracy. In "The Final Problem" Dr. Watson has never heard of Moriarty, whereas according to this story he should be at least familiar with the name and character of the man. To be honest, it didn't really effect the story in itself as the Moriarty involvement is pretty small but it was an inaccuracy that I did notice, probably because I only read "The Final Problem" a month or two ago. Then again, I suppose we can maybe just assume that Watson forgot about it as I am sure we have all forgotten things before... I mean I once found myself sitting on church steps in the middle of Edinburgh at 3am on a Friday night with no clue how I got there.

All things considered, "The Valley of Fear" is a decent Sherlock Holmes book. The Murder and investigation portions are well written, the flashback is enjoyable with a strong ending and the epilogue adds well to the legend of Professor Moriarty. So, I would therefore advise anyone interested in the Holmes stories to make this one a definite read as it is probably one of my favourites.