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The Valley Of Fear

The Valley Of Fear The Valley Of Fear The Valley Of Fear

The Valley Of Fear back

Conan Doyle, Ian Edginton & I.N.J. Culbard


Page 45 Review by Stephen

"I have been in the Valley of Fear.
"I am not out of it yet.
"Sometimes I think I never shall be."

THE VALLEY OF FEAR, AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS... It's all about fucked up geology for I.N.J. Culbard, isn't it? Don't you think he should mellow out a little? I'm thinking The Glacier of Gloom, The Estuary of Ennui, or The Meadows of Mild Malaise.

I read this on a sunny Sunday afternoon in my Garden Of Ineffable Joy, and the book matched the setting perfectly. I was thirteen the last time I read Sherlock Holmes and this brought back its brilliance indescribably well. The mere mechanics of the mystery alone are compelling enough - truly it's a devilish plot with plenty of misdirection and false assumptions - but Edginton has distilled the prose to a gripping perfection whilst abandoning none of its original language. A note is scrawled "rudely" rather than crudely and the murder is reported by a "much excited" Cecil Barker rather than one agitated or alarmed, as we might say now.

Moreover, artist Ian Culbard has choreographed Sherlock Holmes' confident performance with a quiet intensity, focussing on the eyes and the knowledge behind them, so that he is imbued with as much charisma as any actor I'm aware of that has taken the role to date. Holmes immerses himself in the tiniest details and revels in any mystery that successfully challenges his wits. To Holmes it is the perfect opportunity for a piece of theatre that he can direct, which is why he insists that it plays itself out in front of his captive audience of fellow detectives as they lie in wait for one of the cast to walk on stage and make his telling move:

"Watson insists that I am a dramatist in real life. Some touch of the artist wells up within me and calls insistently for a well-staged performance! Surely our profession would be a drab and sordid one if we did not set the scene so as to glorify the results. The blunt accusation, the tap on the shoulder - what can one make of such a dénouement? But the quick inference, the subtle trap, the clever forecast of events, the triumphant vindication of bold theories - are these not the pride and justification of our life's work?"

Importantly, throughout that speech, far from gesticulating melodramatically like some self-obsessed luvvie, he stares straight ahead from under hooded eyes watching eagle-eyed for his prey, for it is the prize itself - the solving of the riddle and that way that it plays itself out - which absorbs him.

Similarly I will allow the mystery to present itself to your own good selves in the way it was intended by Mssrs Edginton and Culbard, with but a note that the central murder is framed by Holmes' earliest insistence on the culpability of Professor Moriarty who lies waiting patiently in the wings without one single line, but with a presence all the same which makes itself felt.

Sherlock Holmes is an enduring creation, part of whose allure is his smiling conceit: he knows he will get there first. Privately, I was amused to find our merchant of mischief employing a phrase I'm inordinately fond of myself:

"Exactly so!"

The wallpaper's aged well too.