Why post about The Valley of Fear (VoF), the fourth and last Sherlock Holmes novel, and not A Study in Scarlett, his first. Or The Hound of the Baskervilles his most famous? Simply because VoF is so scary, with a hunk of a main character, (not Holmes), with such spectacular twists, that I want you all to know of it.
VoF opens with Holmes receiving a mysterious cypher. This slightly contrived beginning provides some of the background necessary to understand the resolution to this intricate plot. Decoded, the cypher anticipates the killing of country gentleman, John Douglas. Too late to stop the murder of this mysterious stranger, Holmes and company get busy solving the who and the how of it.
In typical Sherlockian fashion, the detectives use deductive logic to poke holes in their theories based on new facts that surface, all the while spiraling closer to the truth.
After Doyle solves the murder (with a twist of course), he uncovers the origin of the secret conflict that twenty years earlier had motivated the killing. When John Douglas, a member of the Ancient Order of Freemen started a new life in Vermissa Valley he fell in with a corrupted chapter of Freemen who terrorized the region with murder, arson, beatings, and blackmail. Anyone who dared to defy them was summarily killed. In love with a woman whom one of these cutthroats covets, Douglas finds himself in a conflict so engrossing, so realistically depicted, I felt I was reading a novel that had just published, its sensibility was that timeless.
If I say more, I’ll spoil this suspenseful plot for you! Read the rest to find out what happens….