The Valley of Fear is the last Sherlock Holmes novel. It was originally published in 1915 but is set prior to the events of “The Final Problem.” Doyle ignores at least one fact stated by Watson in, “The Final Problem” where Watson claims not to have heard of Moriarity. Here, Holmes introduces Watson far before that as the two go to a castle to investigate the murder of a mysterious American.
The mystery at the castle is well-laid out with a lot of intriguing clues and some nifty deduction. However, the Holmes portion of this story is fairly light. It reads like a slightly longer Short Story rather than a novel. The rest of the novel, much like in A Study in Scarlet is consumed by a look at the back story of the crime which began in America.
The idea of solving a mystery and then telling us the story behind the crime is rarely a good writing method. I had to really slog through Doyle’s use of in A Study in Scarlet. I put the book aside when I came on it when a child and didn’t pick it up for 20 years. However, this story is more interesting with its focus on the Scowrers, an American secret society that terrorized Pennsylvania and a mysterious stranger that joined them. It was quite riveting reading, so I didn’t mind the digression much.
However after that great story, the ending of the book left a bad taste. The 1935 movie, The Triumph of Sherlock Holmes was based on this story but gave a radically different end and with good reason. Without spoiling the end I will say, that for the first time that for all concerned, everyone would have been better off had Holmes not investigated the case.
Rating: 4.0 out of 5.0
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