Hard Case Crime review: The Valley of Fear by A. C. Doyle (HCC-063)



A sawed-off shotgun blast to the face leaves one man dead–and reveals a secret that has pursuied another across an ocean and set the world’s most ruthless criminal on his trail. The man needs the help of a great detective…but could even Sherlock Holmes save him now?

Hard Case Crime publisher Charles Ardai explains his decision to package the final Sherlock Holmes novel in a lurid pulp fiction cover in this piece from the Guardian:

Publisher Charles Ardai said he had been looking for a classic novel to “playfully repackage” in Hard Case Crime’s pulp style since he launched the press five years ago, keen to follow in the footsteps of the 1940s and 1950s, which saw a cleavage-revealing cover dreamed up for 1984 (“Forbidden love … Fear … Betrayal”), and a “bosomy lipsticked redhead” on the cover of Frankenstein. “This is the tradition we wanted to revive with our edition of The Valley of Fear – presenting something ‘good for you’ in ‘bad for you’ garb,” he said. “We chose Conan Doyle precisely because he does seem miles away from what we usually do – part of the goal was to startle readers with the apparent disconnect between the style of the art and the work being presented.”

Unmentioned in the Guardian interview is that Ardai is clearly following in the footsteps of another pulp paperback tradition–cashing in. That is, unless you believe it is a coincidence that Hard Case Crime released a Sherlock Holmes novel with a pulpy cover the same month that the new, pulpy Sherlock Holmes movie was released to theaters amidst a flurry of advertising.

And more power to him for that. The gimmick worked in my case–I skipped several ahead in my Hard Case Crime reading in order to reacquaint myself with Holmes in case I decide to go see the movie. It has been many years since I last read any of Holmes’ marvelous adventures, and it was a delight to jump back in with one as excellent as The Valley of Fear (which I had not previously read).

The Valley of Fear is a superb choice for those who haven’t read Holmes but are intrigued by the film. The first half is classic Holmes detective work, and the second, the saga of a young man who becomes involved with a sinister secret society in a rough-and-tumble mining town. It will satisfy fans of both puzzles and two-fisted tales.

Now to dig up my old copy of The Complete Sherlock Holmes. It’s been too long.