Saturday, May 11, 2019

The Valley of Fear – a Sherlock Holmes Novel (novel #127)

The Valley of Fear is the fourth and final Sherlock Holmes novel, though chronologically it is Holmes’ 16thcase. Most importantly perhaps, it introduces Holmes’ nemesis, Professor James Moriarty.

After a run of Holmes short stories that I was only lukewarm over, this was a wonderful surprise. It was a riveting mystery, with a stunning reveal, a lengthy backstory, justice in the end, and then an untidy epilogue which left me wanting more.

I was all over the map in my emotions. First, I was excited when I saw the name Moriarty on the page, but later mildly disappointed as Moriarty plays a very small part in this story, but ultimately captivated by this mystery in its own right.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Actually, Moriarty plays a much larger role in the Sherlock Holmes mythos, than he does in the actual Sherlock Holmes stories. Moriarty only appears in two stories: The Valley of Fear and The Final Problem. Doyle uses this story to pique the reader's interest in anticipation of a climactic contest between the genius detective and criminal mastermind.

The Valley of Fear was highly entertaining on its own though, with one poor soul being murdered twice. It could easily have been told with no reference to Moriarty, but for the maddening epilogue.

At the end of the epilogue, when a friend of the newest victim of Moriarty’s villainy complains to Holmes.
‘Do you tell me that we have to sit down under this? Do you say that no one can ever get level with this king-devil?’
‘No, I don’t say that,’ said Holmes, and his eyes seemed to be looking far into the future. ‘I don’t say that he can’t be beat. But you must give me time – you must give me time!’
We all sat in silence for some minutes, while those fateful eyes still strained to pierce the veil. 

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Run for the Roses 2019

Kentucky Derby 2019

For my annual brief departure from the literary theme of this blog, and in deference to the thousands who have come to depend on this…I’ll now give you my Kentucky Derby Picks.

Roadster (pictured here winning the Santa Anita Derby)

Two reasons: He is the son of Quality Road and the great-great grandson of Secretariat. Quality Road was one of the greatest thoroughbreds you never heard of. He missed all the Triple Crown races of his eligible year due to injury. He still put together an impressive lifetime record of 8 wins, including Grade 1 wins in the Woodward and Florida Derby, 3 places, and 1 show – that is NEVER finished worse than third, and that only once. He was a versatile horse, who could lead wire to wire, stalk the front runners and blaze past them in the end, or hang at the back of the pack and then find another gear to pass the entire field in the stretch.

And then of course, Secretariat.

There are other things I like about Roadster: very capable jockey in Florent Geroux, best trainer in the business Bob Baffert, post position #17 should be good for him to stalk the leaders, and let the sprinters tire themselves, and when he did just that in the Santa Anita Derby, he looked like he had plenty left. But still – it is his bloodlines that set him apart for me.

The probable favorite Omaha Beach has scratched for sickness, so Roadster, Game Winner, and Improbable will be the likely favorites. 

I also like Maximum Security, Vekoma, Tactitus – and if you want a long shot – with a shot – Long Range Toddy.

Finish prediction: Roadster, Maximum Security, Vekoma, Long Range Toddy. 

And finally, shameless self-promotion, something I wrote once about the Greatest Two Minutes in Sports.