‘Vallis Timoris’ is based on the original Sherlock Holmes novel ‘Valley Of Fear’ with additional material and sewing up of the seams by Mike Chinn and he took on the challenge with the full knowledge no doubt of how he would be judged. There are people out there with very particular ideas about how Holmes should be treated.
I’m easy about the character. Holmes is in the public domain, used and sometimes abused by many novelists would be or otherwise. The story is the thing here. Do we need another version of ‘Valley Of Fear’ and was it a good novel in the first place? Having briefly tried to read the original to get some context, I could see the joins in it myself. It feels like a mystery wrapped in an adventure novel. In other words, it already feels like a cobbled together, unnatural novel. This version has the benefit of a fresh eye that could look back at the nineteenth century and add some new dimensions-space travel and the moon!
Opening with a murder to be solved the subsequent stories move back in time and forward until the end we have a completed story. John Douglas, the murder victim, lives in a peculiar house with seemingly staunch, unbreachable defences. It appears that he has been hiding from a past life which saw him live as a worker on the moonbase and uncover a vast conspiracy.
Holmes must attempt to unravel the truth and this leads to his own moon shot. Watson the chronicler is at once removed from most of the story and so we have multiple unreliable, narrators who lead us we often know not where. Through it all, just as in the original, we are invited to see the calculated interference of Professor Moriarty. This very much feels like a gratuitous add on to a perfectly good adventure story and for that we have to blame Arthur Conan Doyle who wrote this as a prequel to the death/return of Holmes.
‘Vallis Timoris’ also carefully references the sort of films I remember such as ‘The First Men In The Moon’, where we can feel the technology is rather quaint and the world was a kinder place.
This is an odd book to review as I feel the original novel is less than perfect but, on the whole, I think the mash-up is ably done. The Moon episode and moon shots are in the grand tradition of the marvellous Jules Verne giving a nice retro-period flavour and tying in Conan Doyle with the novelists of his time. This is possibly a book he should have written perhaps?
(pub: Fringe Works Ltd, 2015. 314 page paperback. Price: £ 11.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-90957-324-6)
check out website: www.fringeworks.co.uk