The Valley of Fear by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
In my Sherlock Holmes reading, I vaguely remember reading The Valley of Fear many years ago, but I couldn’t have told you what it was about. Part of my mission in going through the stories and novels this time was for my own memory purposes. While The Valley of Fear doesn’t break a lot of new ground, it does give insight into Sherlock Holmes’ method of investigation. Plus, the novel gives Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to develop more of the methodology and adventure one comes to expect from a Sherlock Holmes story.
This novel is structured similarly to A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four in that we have a present mystery which is informed by a lengthy past motive and grudge. The first part of the novel deals with the real-time mystery—the death of John Douglas in his own library—and the solving of said mystery. While several culprits emerge, there are shadowy organizational ties to Moriarty that leave Holmes wondering just how deep the organized crime network goes, and how his own notoriety can affect his and Watson’s lives. The second part delves into a history, including the reason for the weird branded scar on Douglas’s arm. You understand what “the Valley of Fear” really means, and the sorts of organized crimes that occurred in the world of Holmes and Moriarty.
While this was not my favorite of the novels (Hound of the Baskervilles forever!!!), it was still an entertaining to pass the time. Look, we all know that Sherlock Holmes is kind of a dillweed, but Watson is a faithful chronicler, and his asides and edits of the story make it an interesting layer to the puzzle of the Holmes-and-Watson adventures.