The Valley of Fear
Sherlock Holmes #4
by Arthur Conan Doyle
My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Classic mystery
Like A Study in Scarlet, this novella is in two parts—the mystery being solved by Holmes and the backstory of the principle character in the mystery. Each part has a bit of a twist near the end. The mystery section is interesting enough, though doesn’t stand out much from the others I’ve read so far. I was spoiled on the twist (people seem to care a lot less about spoiler tags and warnings when leaving a low rating), so it’s difficult to say how I would have felt about it. It didn’t seem particularly inspired, that’s all I can really say. The backstory portion I found interesting and unnecessarily long in turns. It’s very difficult for me to get into the head of someone who is so brutal and uncaring. The twist, though, was probably one of the most surprising twists I’ve read. I did not see it coming and mentally applauded Doyle for the misdirect. I raised the story at least half a star, maybe a full star, just because of that twist.
I have to say that screen writers over the years have really done a number with Moriarty. I am sure I’m not the only person who has read these stories after seeing and hearing about Holmes over the years and imagining Moriarty as a dastardly foil for the great detective, only to realize that book Moriarty is nothing compared to his on-screen counterparts. This book had even less Moriarty than the short story in which he was introduced (“The Final Problem” in The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes), and now that I’ve read both stories with the infamous villain in them, I really can’t believe how big of a deal the character became. We really only know he’s brilliant because we’re told he is. There’s no proof given; Sherlock says he’s a criminal mastermind, so that’s all we need to make up stories about his treachery. Anyway, all of that aside, this was a more memorable Holmes story for me, so that’s something (though it has nothing to do with Moriarty).
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If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!