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Posts tagged “the valley of fear

Day 27 – The most surprising plot twist or ending


This post is part of a month-long series of pre-dated posts running while I am on holiday. Feel free to comment, I’ll get back to you when I return!
Please note that any “reviews” I write here are simply my own opinion and that I am not doing any objective, informative reviews for this challenge. If there are any spoilers in a post, I will indicate it at the top.
I draw the book covers straight from Goodreads and you can click on the images to go to the book’s page on there.


I was considering writing about one or more of Agatha Christie’s murder mysteries for today’s post, but then I decided that a plot twist at the end of one of those books is not surprising, it is expected. Basically, when you pick one of those up, you are saying “Go on. Surprise me,” because plot twists are, after all, Dame Christie’s speciality.


So then I decided to write about The Valley of Fear by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It is one of the four Sherlock Holmes novels written by him, and quite different in the sense that Holmes is only present for a small part of the story (similar to A Study in Scarlet). For the rest of the story, we are transported into the past and a continent away from Holmes and Watson’s quarters in Baker Street. We travel to America, to the fictional Vermissa Valley (a.k.a. the valley of fear) where coal and iron is mined, where we follow the story of young John McMurdo, who seems to be a nice guy. He is a newcomer to the valley and soon hears out that the entire valley is caught in the dictatorship of a group of men reminiscent of the Klu Klux Klan. They are the Scowrers and their word is law. At first McMurdo laughs off these dark rumours, but it is not long before he is swept up, drawn in and becomes as bad as the rest of these men who are red to the elbows with murder.

I’ll leave you to find out the fate of these men for yourself, but I can tell you that the plot twist at the end of their story had me gaping at the masterly subterfuge. Personally, I think it is the best of the four Holmes novels and it is also the one all the stories that stand out the most to me, even with the absence of Holmes and Watson. Although I am also fond of The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot, The Greek Interpreter and The Five Orange Pips none of them have a plot twist like this at the end.


On a slightly related note, has anyone else experienced that they get too good at predicting the plot of a normal book? The more I read, the more I find plots that repeated. That is what I like about Agatha Christie’s oeuvre: just when I think I know who the murderer is, taking into account her method of flitting between the most likely and least likely person, then she turns the tables on me again so that I am wrong yet again. Actually, I have only once been “right” about the ending and then just as I was congratulating myself, Monsieur Poirot said “Wait a minute,” and pulled yet another rabbit from the hat. That book has two endings: it makes you think that it is ending and then it simply picks up the mystery again and goes on. It is her first book: The Mysterious Affair at Styles.


I could name other mysteries with plot twists, but what would be the point? You already know that I love murder mysteries (I’m gruesome like that) and why else do I read them except for the plot twists? I’ll stop now before I spoil the plot of one of these mysteries. I hate it when people do that to me, so I shouldn’t be a hypocrite. 😉


Tomorrow’s post is about my favourite title.