Sunday, 30 May 2010

The Valley of Fear.

By Arthur Conan Doyle (Sir)

OK, let's get this off the bat straight away. I quite simply love Sherlock Holmes and old Arthur come to think of it. So this is in some ways a love song for the two as well as a reflection on the whole book.

Now I have dipped in and out of the Holmes cannon at various points in my reading, err... "career". Can I call it a career? Yes I can dammit! So really I have often viewed him as a good comfort read, the literary equivalent of cake. If ever I'm stuck for something to read, I'll read a Holmes, whether short story of a full blown novel. They are my go to books when I am not feeling in the mood to be entertained by Terry Pratchett.

Yes, anyway, talk of comfort reading aside. What did I think of this particular side of the Conan Doyle canon? Well....

I really like the narrative style that ACD (good abbreviation?) uses. The use of Watson as a narrator, ever so slightly unreliable as he may be is a good one. He is the equivalent of the companion in Doctor Who. There to ask all the right questions. Without him to humanise Holmes and to explain how the man is how is, Holmes would be an entirely un-likeable swine. The way that the stories are themselves treated as stories being related to us as actual stories rather than just a record of events helps the feel of them. You don't feel to be suffering the "and then this happened" curse that can sometime be a trap that one falls into. Here Watson often uses some artistic license to give us some facts before they occur in the actual chronology of the book. His acknowledgement of these facts helps make the whole thing feel more like a story.

As I have already said, I view Holmes as a real comfort read. The methods of detection and their explanation and the sheer simple enjoyment of how the crime is easily revealed to a trained eye and mind is what makes it such jolly good fun. One can simply pick it up, read the story and not feel to have been overloaded with drama, shattering events or have a moral jammed down your throat. ACD doesn't preach, he just tells a story, plain and simple.

For me, the book was a nice light, not quite in the Paddington vein, which was about the sheer simplicity and enjoyment of the small things in life. Instead, whilst Holmes is about the small things and how they relate to the big things. Here the small things all make one nice glorious picture of enjoyment. A crime that can be solved and the game of getting there to be thrilled and savoured.


  1. Just dropping by from the Hop.

  2. yes.

    ACD is great for both those reasons--pure storytelling, and the genius of the Watson device.