Thursday, June 19, 2014

Book Review--> Sherlock Holmes #7-The Valley of Fear by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Title and Author: The Valley of Fear
Print Length: 203 Pages
Publication Date: 1914
Language: English
Genre: Locked Room Mystery, Classics, Detective Fiction

Book Review:

The Valley of Fear is not new to me. I read it the first time when I was in the seventh standard and totally loved it. The mystery was totally ingenious and utterly unexpected!

Arthur Conan Doyle had studied to become a doctor but started writing when patients didnt flock to his clinic. Taking his old professor as his muse, he created the legendary character of Sherlock Holmes who is just too intelligent. It sometimes feels like he is from another planet and of a different species. Eccentric, sometimes rude, unemotional and yet a genius like no one has ever seen, he again tests his mental faculties in this novel where a man gets killed in a locked room in an old manor completely cut off from outside at night so that no one can enter or leave it at that time.

How was he killed and who killed him?

A strange and puzzling mystery with missing dumbbells, raincoats, missing wedding ring and mysterious cards left behind, it is a case where nothing is as it seems.


The Valley of Fear is the last of the four novels by Arthur Conan Doyle and takes the readers to the prim and proper era in England with large country houses, lords and ladies of the manor and a time when England ruled over half the world. We are also transported to America in its early days with a boom in mining of coal. The book is also believed to be loosely based on the real-life case of Molly Maguires and Pinkerton agent James McParland. It has been adapted to TV, stage and movies and considered a masterpiece from the master storyteller, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

The story is divided into two parts with the first part taking place in England where the lord of the manor is killed in mysterious circumstances and the second part happens in flashback which takes us some twenty years back in time to America where a cult is terrorizing a valley in the American West.


"It is the Valley of Fear, the Valley of Death. The terror is in the hearts of the people from the dusk to the dawn."

The cover art has changed many times since the book was released first in 1914 but what first caught my attention was the name of the book. The name The Valley of Fear created an instant chill and a sudden thrill of danger in my heart the first time I picked up this book. The blurb further attracted me and made me check it out from my school library.

I still remember that hot afternoon when I first read this book and the excitement I felt while I eagerly turned the pages. Howsoever I tried but I could not solve the mystery and was ultimately left speechless when the mystery did unfold before my eyes! :)

Such is the effect of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes' books that they still shock and surprise us even after almost a century. The times have changed, we are more advanced and still the crimes that happened at that time leave us baffled.

This book sets the stage for the legendary confrontation between Sherlock and Professor Moriarty in The Last Bow. Professor's presence and his hand in this mysterious killing of Mr. Douglas is hinted.

"I can see only two things for certain at present- a great brain (Moriarty) in London, and a dead man in Sussex. It's the chain between that we are going to trace."

The writing style is narrative and Dr. Watson is our narrator who symbolizes the normal public with their average intelligence very often in the dark with respect to the workings of Sherlock Holmes' genius mind!

The book is medium paced and may sometimes feel a bit boring due to the lengthy descriptions of the places and people. But these lengthy descriptions are put to use in solving the mystery and so become quite important.

The characterization is expertly done to form an image of the person in the reader's minds.

"I age he may have been about fifty, with a strong-jawed, rugged face, a grizzling moustache, peculiarly keen gray eyes, and a wiry, vigorous figure..." (description of Mr. Douglas)

"The greatest schemer of all time, the organizer of every deviltry, the controlling brain of the underworld, a brain which might have made or marred the destiny of nations-that's the man!" (description of Professor Moriarty)


"Sherlock Holmes' eyes glistened, his pale cheeks took a warmer hue, and his whole eager face shone with an inward light when the call for work reached him."


The deductions that Holmes makes by studying the behavior of the suspects is exceptional and fills the readers with admiration. The author shows his intricate knowledge of human nature and behavior which he expertly uses in his book.


"Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself; but talent instantly recognizes genius, and MacDonald had talent enough for his profession to enable him to perceive that there was no humiliation in seeking the assistance of one who already stood alone in Europe, both in his gifts and his experience.(Sherlock Holmes)"

"...He was cheery and genial to all, but somewhat offhand in his manners, giving the impression that he had seen life in social strata on some far lower horizon.."(Description of Mr. Douglas)


"I am not a whole-souled admirer of womankind, but my experience of life has taught me  that there are few wives, having any regard for their husbands, who would let any man's spoken word stand between them and that husband's dead body."

I loved the first part with the mind boggling mystery and the clues which just confused me. The second part is a bit slow in developing and I did feel a bit bored in some parts but the unexpected end to it just blew me off!

This is an intricate mystery with a solid story which gives us a glimpse into the lives and times of late 1800s and early 1900s. I have read this book numerous times but still, the story never gets old and the mystery never stops stumping me.

4.5 super shiny stars to The Valley of Fear. Go read this masterpiece featuring one of the best Detectives of all times, Sherlock Holmes. The book is not to be missed and I strongly recommend it to all mystery and detection lovers.


Buy From:
Amazon.com: Paperback | Kindle Ebook | Hardcover
Amazon.in: Paperback | Kindle Ebook
Flipkart.com: Paperback | Ebook


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