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Posted December 7, 2013
As a Sherlock Holmes story, the first half of this book is decen
As a Sherlock Holmes story, the first half of this book is decent (there are both better and worse Holmes stories/novels amongst the Canon). As a noir crime thriller, the second half of this book is quite good. The problem is, it really is two different books and they don't really gel. Doyle uses the standard Holmes set-up (Holmes and Watson are approached by Scotland Yard to help investigate a seemingly unsolvable murder), builds tension by introducing the idea that Holmes' nemesis Professor Moriarty is behind the murder ... and then spends the second half of the book on an extended (and yes, delightfully dark noir) flashback to the "murdered" man's mysterious past in America, with nary a mention of Holmes or Moriarty until the very end pages.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
I enjoyed the flashback story for what it was. In fact, I felt like that story could have stood as a book on its own, with added detail. The characters (John McMurdo, Ettie Shafter, Black Jack McGinty) are interesting despite clearly being tropes, the narrative pace is fast and the setting is so detailed I had no problem picturing this dark remote mining town. Doyle could probably have published this story on its own and done fine with it.
The problem is, this is a Sherlock Holmes novel not a John McMurdo novel. I don't mind flashbacks in my novels -- in fact I usually quite enjoy them, especially if they're as well-written as this one -- but I do mind when the flashback becomes the novel and the purported main characters disappear completely. Holmes and Watson's reappearance and the end of the book feels tacked on, too brief and entirely like an afterthought. Almost like Doyle completed the flashback and then remembered he hadn't quite wrapped up the Moriarty part of the storyline and so came back to it with as little effort as could possibly be expended.
This also plays into my greater disappointment that Doyle never really gave us a true Holmes-Moriarty matching of the wits in the Canon. Moriarty's role in Valley of Fear is brief and well behind-the-scenes despite the build-up in the novel's early pages and it's still about the most we ever see of him. Most of what we "know" about the Holmes-Moriarty rivalry has been filled in by other authors in more recent years. But of course, that's a complaint for a different essay.
I give Valley of Fear three out of five stars -- it's a good enough read, but not the Great Holmes Tale it could have been.
Note on the Hard Case Crime edition: I've seen people complain that the HCC edition goes out of its way to pretend the book is not a Holmes tale or that the publishers "intentionally obfuscate" who the author is by crediting it to "AC Doyle" instead of "Arthur Conan Doyle." On the first charge, that the cover is meant to evoke crime novels rather than Holmes, I think they are guilty as charged... the cover art and blurbs, of course, are designed to play up the crime/noir feel of the book do their job well. On the second charge, I don't think any intelligent reader is going to be fooled by the bit of fun the publishers have by the shortening of Doyle's name to fit a more noir-author stylization.
Posted January 15, 2012
This book will keep you on the edge of your seat. I personally love mystery books and if you do too and are looking for one, I recommend this novel. The cleverness of the characters during the book will keep you entertained. Although there are other Sherlock Holmes books, to me this one is the best. So yeah, go for it and read this book! :)Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 5, 2012
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