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.