The Valley of Fear, UK First Edition, 1974
Subject of the book
This book reproduces the Sherlock Homes Collected Edition of this story from 1914. This story was was remarked upon by Sir Arthur as his swansong in fiction; he focused thereafter on his crusade for spiritualism. It is a tale of how Holmes solves a foul murder in a moated manor house in Sussex. The great detective uncovers an earlier and grimmer history of lawlessness and wholesale slaughter in a mining valley in the United States and once again grapples with the criminal mastermind Professor Moriarty.
As a lifelong fan of Holmes, Deighton recounts the evolution of this character from the Study in Scarlet onwards, looking in particular at how Holmes was the first detective to identify the growing importance of science, particularly forensic science, to the development of police work. He writes how Conan Doyle's own medical training gave him a particular expertise in identifying blood stains, something which Holmes also was skilled at.
'A claim of Holmes, sometimes held up to ridicule, is that he could identify newspapers by the typeface and appearance, a fairly simple achievement for anyone working with type. But Holmes can usually take an observation a few stages beyond the reader, and when he looks at a threatening note - made by clipping letters from newspapers - he not only identifies it typographically but remarks that it is stuck with gum rather than paste and that the scissors used had short blades. The cipher that begins the Valley of Fear is similarly subjected to Holmes's close study.'