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December 2012

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wytchcroft in persianslippers

After the Fall...

Following on from my previous post -
I have re.read The Valley of Fear and enjoyed it more than I had expected.

After a simply wretched opening which shows Holmes being openly scornful of Watson, (in a manner more befitting perhaps of Rathbone and other Holmes to come), the story settles down to a typical author's 'late work' with nods to many previous outings from the Dancing Men to the Final Problem and with a structure based on SiS. It's a romp, deduction, clues, codes and then the main story etc.

So - why so underrated? Doyle himself called it both Swan Song and Goose-cackle!

For my sins, I looked into wikipedia and came across the old quote; "Holmes may not have died at Reichenbach, but he was never the same man.." (I'm paraphrasing).
Now this ALWAYS erks me, especially as Doyle only occasionally disputed it. 
Most of my favourite stories are in the Return and His Last Bow. And a couple are in The Casebook.

Now, I'll agree as much in that some later works have awkward openings where Doyle seems to be experimenting with starting a story in the middle of a scene, without first setting it, and minus Watson's usual introductions. But - some of my least favourite stories are definitely in the Adventures (Noble Bachelor) and others in Memoirs (such as Gloria Scott) feel like make weights, non Holmes stories re-written as ballast.

Purely objectively, I would be hard pressed to make a real list of one volume over another.

Am I alone in this regard? What do other members here think?


I agree entirely with you! Most of my favorite stories are in the Return and the Last Bow.

I do think there is a difference in Holmes post-Reichenbach, but for the better. He's warmer, more likable, as if the absence made him lose some of that cold aloofness.

Now some of the later stories (MAZA springs to mind) were very awkward and rather trite or boring - but then so were ones like GLOR, as you said, or IDEN and so on. There's a good balance of both in all the compilations, in my opinion.
yes - IDEN too, i agree. i understand that Doyle himself felt that coming up with plots was hard - but then the plots were never the issue to me.

And yes, you're right, Holmes does mellow as time goes by - also (perhaps) becaue Watson sees him as a person, rather than earlier when he gets busy with the lists of character traits etc. Holmes is cold in an obvious way - but Watson has that edge to him too (early on at least) where he is studying sherlock as a dr would a microbe, but Waton's 'warm' personality masks this somewhat.
VALL was always my favourite "Holmes" tale. I find the opening humorous, the tale of "Birdy" Edwards very involving and with a nice twist, and Holmes's defeat by Moriarty a surprising and brave move, and a nice "prequel" to their vendetta in FINA.

Like ACD, I've never found the quality of the later stories to be inferior. Indeed, as he said, if the entire canon were read in reverse order, a layman would not be able to detect a consistent increase or decrease in quality. Some early tales like "Beryl Coronet" and "A Case of Identity" seem a bit underdone to me...

I've often thought the "not the same man" is a cheeky hint that some Sherlockians have run with to explain how watson invented the later stories (Holmes was really dead) or even investigated cases himself, using Holmes (or a Holmes impersonator) to distract attention from himself. It'd help explain WIST's dating being during the Great Hiatus! This is fun: http://www.sherlockpeoria.net/Who_is_Sherlock/ChronCornerHOUNVALLLast.html#WIST

"I’ve always been of the opinion that Watson didn’t take Holmes’s death all that well. He even attempted to carry on the consulting detective business himself for a while, which added to the strain placed upon him. His wife wasn’t in the best of health, as she doesn’t seem to have lived through Holmes’s hiatus. And Mycroft has Mrs. Hudson keeping Holmes’s rooms just as if the detective still lives there. Put all that together, and what do you get?
Watson cracked. In Watson’s mind, Holmes was with him during the investigation of "Wisteria Lodge." (And a couple of Chronology Corners from now, we’ll see that Holmes wasn’t the only person in the story whose presence was a Watsonian delusion.) It explains why Baynes seems to be doing all the work in this case, and Holmes’s peculiar distance from it ... he was, in fact, very, very distant from it altogether. (For those of you who hate to see poor Watson gone temporarily insane, call it an astral projection from the real Holmes who was meditating in Tibet. That works, too.)"

Edited at 2008-11-16 10:30 pm (UTC)
(i can't believe you have an agaton icon - we must be 'criminal doubles!':))))

-koff!- anyway, thanks for such a great reply and i'm off to explore the link!:)
ps - i do understand the fun part though - the same with holmes in retirement:)
wow - that's a very plausible set of ideas!:)
Now, I can't say much about the subject really, because being a foreigner I don't own a copy of "Adventures" in my own language (there was this weird order of publishing the books, and "Adventures" had half of the book published up until SPEC, second part never came out and the rest of the books were published in paperback. Complete "Adventures" were published later, but in such a bad binding that it kept breaking down, as I remember from the library, and I think there aren't any left now), that said in one breath I have to agree that VALL is one of the best stories, humorous and interesting. And I don't mind Holmes being different after coming back, though, as I said, I can't really tell. :P But yes, my favourites are from after his "death" as well. Anyway, if you think that most of the stories actually got written after he "rose from the dead", then... Well, it must mean something, but how should I know, I am not a philosopher! :P

One exception. I love MUSG. ;)

As for starting in the middle of the scene, isn't that the best way to capture your audience - some "akshun"? ;)


very interesting!:)

you made reading Holmes into a tale from Borges:):)

as for your last point - yes, starting straight in can work, but it never felt natural in Holmes compared to the more typical Watsoon lead in.

thanks again for such a nice reply:)