Sherlock Holmes: The Valley of Fear (2:1-2)

Summary: We meet John McMurdo, a freeman on the run from Chicago, who is settling in a rough, mining town. He takes up in a boarding house and flirts with the owner’s daughter until the owner finds out he’s freeman, which is like a gang there. Then McMurdo meets the freeman bodymaster and we learn McMurdo was a counterfeiter and murderer, which the bodymaster is very interested in.

Sherlock Rating: 2 monacles, I guess? There isn’t a mystery here, or Sherlock. It’s like that first story, “A Study in Scarlett,” which I don’t know why he returned to this format, since it was pretty boring. Hopefully Moriarty will at least turn up somehow.

Mystery Story Convention: N/A, as it is not a mystery and more of a western–the convention there is, stranger comes to town and stirs up trouble…

Sherlock Holmes: The Valley of Fear (7)

Summary: This chapter was very long and the end of Part 1. We solve the case–or rather, Sherlock does, while displaying his love of dramatics by making the police and Watson sit in the cold night on a stakeout without telling them what they were even staking-out. Finally the murdered man’s friend, Cecil Barker, shows up and tries to haul in evidence he’d hidden in the moat, when Sherlock jumps out. Cecil wasn’t going to say anything, but then the wife appears. We think we’re going to get some kind of illicit lovers’ confession, but then the dead man himself comes out, not dead at all. He knew a guy was coming for him, and when he attacked he killed him. When they realized none of the staff had heard, only his close friend and wife, he decided to fake his death to stop his pursuers once and for all. Now that that mystery’s solved, does that mean we get back to the Moriarty stuff?

Sherlock Rating: 4 monacles/4 magnifying glasses. I’m rating this chapter and this mystery as a whole, even though the book isn’t over yet. It wasn’t the most exciting, but it was interesting. I enjoyed how Sherlock messed with the police, and I liked the twist that the guy wasn’t dead. I’d suspected that, but it was still a surprise. I’ll still rate the book as a whole when it’s finished.

Mystery Story Convention: the victim that really isn’t dead. This is at least the second Sherlock mystery where this has happened (this was the better of the two by far), and it is probably a required plot at some point in every mystery series. Spoiler: Agatha Christy even used it in Ten Little Indians.

Sherlock Holmes: The Valley of Fear (4-6)

Summary: In these three chapters, they begin investigating the murder of John Douglas, who had been mysteriously killed in his castle house. They first have a lot of questions with no clear answers. Sherlock interviews all of the household staff. Douglas had a friend who had been with him in America who knew of some great fear he had and used to mention “the valley of fear” but never explained what it was. He seemed to be afraid of someone called Bodymaster McGinty. Finally, Mrs. Douglas is revealed to have a secret. They believe she and the friend may be in love and that they are hiding the true time of murder and helped the murderer escape by lowering the drawbridge for him. Sherlock dwells on a missing dumbbell and finally reaches some kind of conclusion while calling himself a lunatic.

Sherlock Rating: 2 monacles. The case is interesting, but it doesn’t seem that special to be drug out into book-length. Moriarty hasn’t been mentioned again at all!

Mystery Story Convention: The cheating wife with a secret. The wives always have a secret. Those pesky women are always hiding something from the big, strong, insecure men. No matter how happy a woman in a mystery appears, she is always hiding something. I guess that’s why Sherlock doesn’t respect women all that much.