Friday, August 22, 2014

Revisiting Holmes: The Fourth Novel.

Book #33. The Valley of Fear, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Unabridged audio. 

It has been a while since I revisited this second “Year ofHolmes” – I don’t think I want to finish up the canon, for fear that it would take away my excuse for writing about the great detective.

Doyle takes us back in time for this novel, to a time when Professor Moriarty is still vexing the great detective. The Professor is not active in this story, but Holmes blames him for the events of this story. 

This characteristic of Doyle to have written the Holmes canon out of chronological order makes me want to track down a chronological listing of the stories and novels and read them in that order. Maybe next time.

This book bears similarities to the first Holmes novel, A Study in Scarlet (reviewed here). Holmes actually solves the crime halfway through the novel, using some masterful detection and ruses to do so. He decodes a warning from an informant against Moriarty. A Scotland Yard man asks the pair to investigate a corpse with the same look and circle-in-triangle brand on the forearm as the Moriarty-related case.

But the murderer has a story to tell in his defense, and much of the second half is a flashback tale of a “murder club” operating in the United States under the guise of a local lodge. This is not the first time that Doyle uses scary gangs of Americans as his villains. 

Doyle has his quirks as a writer, but the decoding scene at the start of the novel is strong, as is the portrayal of the Holmes – Watson friendship. And although this story has similarities to Scarlet, the backstory presented here is a much more interesting read. 

Source: LibriVox, the company that specializes in recording public domain works.

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