Book reviews

Posts tagged ‘Sherlock Holmes’

The Valley of Fear by Arthur Conan Doyle


The Valley of Fear by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is really two stories, loosely linked by several characters. The first story regards the murder which occurs in a moated manor house in a quiet country area in England.

Sherlock Holmes does his usual thing and investigates and solves the mystery surrounding this murder, with the assistance of Dr Watson. To be completely honest, there wasn’t much to this part of the story at all. I guessed at how it all happened and was fairly close to working it out without Sherlock having to tell me. My powers of deduction obviously work.

The second story is set in the American mining town where the owner of the English manor previously lived. The Valley of Fear is an apt name for the mining town and surrounding area which was ruled by a wicked set of men known as Scowrers, who become rich and powerful through blackmail, violence and murder. Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson do not feature at all in this story, which precedes the English murder.

I found this part of the story fascinating. The Scowrers, who call themselves Freemasons, are merciless and the control they had over The Valley of Fear is almost total. Again, I guessed at how it would all unfold and my deductions were correct, but that did not detract from my enjoyment of the story at all.

If you are looking for a Sherlock Holmes story where you will be too terrified to sleep, read The Hound of the Baskervilles instead of The Valley of Fear. But if you enjoy Sherlock Holmes at work, read the story and as for the prequel, or whatever the American bit of this book is called, take it as an enjoyable bonus.

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle


I owned an abridged version of The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle when I was a child, which was read so many times that the book eventually fell to pieces.

I’m not sure why I was prepared to frighten myself all over again as an adult (I had a lot of nightmares about demon-like black hounds as a child), but when I spotted the complete version of the book in the library, I had to find out what I missed out on reading the abridged version.

Not much, as it happens. The adult version of the story seemed a little fuller, but the plot, the characters and the fear were just as I remembered them, skilful and enthralling. I thoroughly enjoyed the book all over again.

Sherlock Holmes is the star of this book. His detective skills are legendary and a great many of the things he said are still quoted (or misquoted) today, although the words “Elementary, my dear Watson,” did not appear in The Hound of the Baskervilles at all. Neither did “No, s**t, Sherlock.” Holmes’s arrogance is legendary, but his belief in his own mental abilities is justified.

In The Hound of the Baskervilles, Sherlock Holmes is engaged to investigate a suspected murder and to prevent a possible upcoming murder. Dr Watson, Sherlock Holmes’s much more likeable sidekick, narrates the story, in a combination of letters written to Holmes, diary entries or by direct narration.

Sir Henry Baskerville inherited the title, Baskerville Hall and an enormous amount of money from his uncle, Sir Charles, who died in suspicious circumstances. Sir Charles seemingly died of a heart attack, trying to run away from a monstrous black hound. The hound is a family legend, or curse, which kills the men of the Baskerville family when they go onto the moor alone at night. (I had no idea what a moor was when I was reading this book over and over as a child, but I didn’t like the sound of it).

I won’t give away any more about the plot, or tell ‘who dunnit’ to the six people in the world who are not familiar with this story, but it is an enjoyable read, with good characters and an interesting plot. Be warned though, after reading The Hound of the Baskervilles you may become anxious crossing paths with big black hungry dogs. Some of my anxieties appear to have returned.

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