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The Valley of Fear, the last Sherlock Holmes novel, begins promisingly, with Holmes and Watson trying to solve a murder mystery at a country manor and firing off some great lines, as when Holmes upbraids Watson with a dumbbell: “One dumb-bell, Watson! Consider an athlete with one dumb-bell! Picture to yourself the unilateral development, the imminent danger of a spinal curvature. Shocking, Watson, shocking!”
But finally the novel is disappointing. Despite the skills and gravelly gravitas of reader Simon Prebble, I felt while listening that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was going through the motions to satisfy importunate fans or to make some money, dusting off things from previous tales like the Hidden Room, the Vengeful Brotherhood, and the American History. And the discomfiture of dull Inspectors by Holmes’ Sphinx-like utterances until the Great Detective finally explains everything has worn thin.
And the second half of the novel removes us from Holmes and Watson, occurring in an American mining valley being terrorized by a secret Order of thugs, and the lurid interest evoked by Doyle doesn’t ring true, perhaps because he doesn’t know America as well as he knows England, or perhaps because the effect of the whole hinges on a surprise from which Watson (narrating Part 2 based on a pile of notes he has received) would spare us.
Doyle also uncomfortably forces this novel into the Holmes Chronology before the events of “The Final Problem” (which follows The Valley of Fear in this audiobook), for in “The Final Problem” Holmes asks Watson if he’s ever heard of “ex-professor” Moriarty, and Watson says never, but the professor is a familiar topic at the start of The Valley of Fear.
I recommend this audiobook to fans of Holmes who must read all his stories, but other readers should begin with The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes or The Memoirs, and readers who’d like to experience Doyle engaged heart and soul in his work should try The White Company or The Lost World.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Loved the first half of the book but just like the first title the second half was filled with a long winded explanation behind the motive of the murderer. It is an interesting tale, but not the one I started the book for.