The Valley of Fear by Arthur Conan Doyle

Rating: 3 stars

“The old wheel turns, and the same spoke comes up. It’s all been done before, and will be again.” 

Fred Porlock, an agent of Professor Moriarty, sends Sherlock a cypher message but decides against sending him the key to the cypher, fearing he would be discovered as a traitor by Moriarty. Holmes is able to infer from the cypher that an Almanack is a book to be used for the encryption. The message he deciphers is a warning that Douglas of Birlstone is in impending danger.

Holmes and Watson are visited by Inspector MacDonald at Baker Street with the news of the murder of Mr John Douglas of Birlstone. Holmes suggests Moriarty’s involvement with the crime but MacDonald disagrees and dismisses his suggestion. Holmes, Watson, and MacDonald then visit Birlstone House to investigate the crime.

On arriving at the crime scene, Holmes discovers that Douglas had been murdered the evening before by a sawed-off shotgun in the face and his head was blown almost to pieces. His body was found by Cecil Barker, a frequent guest at Birlstone House, lying in the centre of the room. Upon investigating, Holmes discovered a single dumbbell, along with other clues, which he regarded as of the utmost importance for the case. A card is also discovered beside the corpse with initials VV 341 on it.

Holmes makes a startling revelation and the case is solved before the second half of the book has even begun.

The first part of the story is well written, excellent and intriguing but the second part is uninteresting and dull with another lengthy flashback. I think it’s the absence of Holmes and Watson which diminishes the book for me. I was blown away as the mystery was unravelled. I did not see the end coming and it completely took me by surprise.

As I was reading reviews of The Valley of Fear on Goodreads, I came across the review of Diane in which she mentioned, the second half of the plot is reportedly based on a real incident of a Pinkerton agent who infiltrated the Molly Maguires, a secret society of miners.

I was looking forward to reading The Valley of Fear because it is one of a couple of stories in which Moriarty is introduced. As I read it, I was disappointed because he was merely mentioned in the book and had no bearing upon the crime, whatsoever.

Moriarty who could match Holmes’ in wit and intelligence is considered to be his arch-enemy even if he appeared in a couple of stories, The Valley of Fear and The Adventure of the Final Problem. Adam Worth, a real-life criminal mastermind was believed to be the inspiration for Moriarty’s character.

People oftentimes compare Moriarty with Voldemort and some of you might disagree with me, but he is nowhere near the pure evil of Voldemort. I despised Moriarty’s character in the Tv series, Sherlock. Voldemort is an exceptional villain, of all times even if he came into existence after Moriarty, considering his evil was solely attributable to the fact that he wasn’t even aware of what love is.

“The temptation to form premature theories upon insufficient data is the bane of our profession.” 

Let me know who is your favourite villain in the comments below.

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  1. I think, by this point, they will all be solved before the second half. Question is can you find a second half where the psyche of the criminal is enough to interest you.
    Voldemort not being able to love because of the love potion he was conceived under was a cop-out…. and insensitive to people born of date rape, it was the wrong message for an author to send to teens. Otherwise, I think The Joker and Cersei Lannister are the most complex villains, the latter’s villain makes you feel sorry for her which is rare.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re one of the few people to acknowledge this insensitivity. I only liked the depiction of how powerful people (fictional or non-fictional) misuse their (magical) powers to coax others to their benefits without considering the consequences to which it may lead. Merope gave his father love potion and conceived Voldemort which, if one thinks, amounts to non-consensual sex. I didn’t approve of this but agreed on the point that, he couldn’t love because there never was real love between his parents. And, I mean no offence to anyone!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Mm, that’s true, it seems like non-magical people are a lot more vulnerable… even in Six of Crows, you can understand why Matthias was a little sceptical.
        And yes, exactly, it was rape… there’s no dressing it up. I still feel like it sends a bad message to young people who are 16 and under reading that, it almost feels like an attack. If Rowling addressed it a little more appropriately by warning people about the dangers and immorality of rape it would have had a more impactful message, in that way, they would know to outlaw love potions entirely… what a vile idea in itself.


    1. I didn’t understand the first line you mentioned but If you want to read it because it has cryptography, you’d be disappointed. The Cypher arrives and Holmes solves it within a chapter. That’s all, that is!


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