Jessica-Robyn's Reviews > The Valley of Fear

The Valley of Fear by Arthur Conan Doyle
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's review
Apr 04, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: classics, mystery-crime-adult, fiction-adult, historical-fiction
Recommended for: classic mystery fans

Sherlock Holmes investigates a murder in Part I of The Valley of Fear and in Part II exits stage left to allow the American set story of Jack McMurdo and the murderous society of the Scowrers in the Valley of Fear to take centre stage and bring everything full circle. And it all ends in an rather unexpected turn of events!

Sherlock and Watson are two of the most iconic literary characters ever written and when you read their stories there is always that little bit of extra weight that comes with them, the weight that tells you as you're reading that this is a classic. This is a classic. A classic!
This is the third Sherlock Holmes novel I have read and up till this point I have yet to truly be impressed. Arthur Conan Doyle had not really blown me away in the manner that I am with other more modern mystery novels and I wasn't expecting the Valley of Fear to be any different. Perhaps it is because I'm more accustomed to a different style of writing, but I've always been left wanting something more from the story that it just wasn't giving me. Like eating a bar of "healthy" chocolate. It's great in it's own way, and great for you, but leaves you wanting a bowl of jello instead.

However, I enjoyed reading Sherlock and Watson go through the motions of Douglas's murder in Part I of the story. There were so many different possibilities surrounded by the building tension of Moriarty and his involvement, as well as a rather perplexing moat.

Yes, there is a moat, though a rather non-threatening one.

The mystery had a flow to it that kept everything moving, even if it was a bit slow to start. The nature of the murder itself was interesting, although the suspects were a bit so-so and the conclusion wasn't really a conclusion at all.

Continued in Part II, we are transported to America, to reveal the secretive past of Douglas in amazingly descriptive detail. The time and place is depicted so vividly that by the time I was finished it had such a great impact on me.

Although, not all things were smooth sailing. While nearing the end of Part II I was ready for it to be finished. I enjoyed the descriptive writing and overall story, but it seemed to be dragging a bit. I understand why it was necessary to build the characters for the Valley of Fear and add depth to the mystery that happens years later, but it seemed like the point of "these are terrible people, who do very terrible things" was being driven home a bit too at length. ... Then came the twist and I was wowed by the deception.

It took all that build up to get to that point and it was, for me at least, amazing. I was not expecting things to take that sort of turn and it brought everything together in a way that saved me from feeling like all Sherlock Holmes was is a "classic" instead of a truly excellent mystery.
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