Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Valley of Fear (Arthur Conan Doyle, 1915)


Not good at all, really struggled to get through this one. It's divided into two parts and the first one is just an average classic detective mystery and second one is truly terrible. 

It starts with Holmes receiving a ciphered message announcing some terrible crime to be committed. He of course easily cracks this code (pretty obvious one in my opinion) and in no time at all it also turns out that dark force behind this “sinister affair” is – once more – none other than Sherlock’s mortal enemy Dr. Moriarty. 

And here is where I started to dislike the book already. Is there really a need to involve this criminal mastermind in every single crime Holmes investigates?  I’m perfectly okay about him fucking with highly secret state affairs documents, blackmailing politicians, stealing priceless art works and so on. But come on! I find it hard to believe that in the meantime he can manage to find time and resources for every single petty crime. But I’m a bit ahead of myself here because at this point in the book we still don’t know that our crime is/will indeed be petty (spoiler - it is). Another thing about this Moriarty business is that he is simply introduced too early in the story. At this point there’s absolutely no need for some ominous background, anonymous tip would do just fine. Smart writer would probably use him to increase suspense later in the book.

So now crime has been committed and Holmes with Dr. Watson and cop (sorry, it’s of course inspector/constable) named MacDonald (nope, no Lestrade in this one) rushes to – surprise, surprise- English countryside to an old house (ups sorry – it’s actually called mansion). Here they find murdered man’s best friend, his wife and – another surprise, you won’t believe this – fucking butler! And beside these people, there’s just one more character - some mysterious and of course sinister stranger who has arrived to near village hotel just shortly before the crime and disappeared afterwards. So Holmes has really hard job on his hands, right? 

And we follow his unusual methods, witty observations, arrogance and so on to the final shocking conclusion. But it’s hardly some big twist since dead guy’s face was blown off by the shotgun and you can smell change of identity trick right from the start.

In all honesty, it’s not as bad as it sounds. It is good old fashioned Sherlock Holmes mystery, maybe a bit predictable, but still quite enjoyable although sometimes hard to follow for non native English speaker because of all that crappy archaic language. 

Second part is totally redundant and I have no idea about why it was ever written. It has next to nothing to do with the first one and it gives impression that Mr. Doyle was getting paid by the number of pages. So do yourself a favor and close this book after the first part. You’ll save some time and keep respect for the old master and his famous detective.

2/5

Facts

Hero
Sherlock Holmes

Body count
one in the first part, many in second

Dames: You kidding? 

Cover
By Glen Orbik. I liked the colors, but girl's facial expression could be more terrified.

Location
First part starts in London and quickly moves to English countryside, second part takes place in some god forsaken mining town in the States.

1 comment:

  1. S'funny really, but Moriarty appeared for the first time in "The Final Problem", was referenced (of necessity) in "The Empty House" and then turns up in this later novel which is set, chronologically, earlier than the other stories.
    The character was invented to kill Homes, acknowledged when Holmes was resurrected and retconned once.
    Blame the movies and the Holmes pastiches for his appearing ubiquitous.

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