Most people who hear Arthur Conan Doyle recognize the man behind the birth of the world’s greatest detective: Sherlock Holmes, but I am not simply a Sherlockian second to being a Doyle fan. For Sherlock may be a genius in the business of crime, but he is a murderer himself for he has killed his own maker.
This may seem controversial to most, but believe me when I say that I love Sherlock ever since I read The Adventure of the Red Headed League while browsing the collection in my school library. However, Doyle was not just a mystery writer, but a great historical writer as well. But the popularity of the character has dug him into a pit, where he is expected to write nothing more but Sherlock, when his talents as a writer goes beyond crime & mysteries.
So this post is dedicated to the other side of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as I feature the second part of his first Sherlock Holmes book: In the Valley of Saints*. Where upon the capture of the mysterious cab driver, Sherlock Holmes narrates the dark and sad story behind the man who has killed 2 shady characters, to settle a debt that is years long due.
*SPOILER WARNING – I try my best not to put any spoilers in these posts, but to properly feature this part of the novel, it is expected that you have actually read a Study in Scarlet (The Reminiscence of Doctor Watson). However, if ending spoilers don’t bother you that much, and this post could get you to read & re-read the entire book, then you are most welcome.
*CONTENT WARNING – This post would be describing a religious sect heavily in a negative light, due to the nature of writing of the author during its time. Please take note that this does not reflect my views of the religion or members of its community in general.
In turning the page to this part of the book, the reader may find the change of tone different from the first part as it goes from a detective story to a tragic romantic tale. And here we can properly appreciate the other side of Doyle’s writing style, as he tells an adventure of a father and his daughter as they try to escape the cult-like community of fundamentalist Christians in frontier times America. In the middle of it all is Jefferson Hope.
The story takes place in the state of Utah, during a time when Fundamentalist Mormon Christians have begun to settle and build their community around the tenets of their beliefs. This includes multiple wives, condemning inebriation and a patriarchal authority that controls the lives of the members strictly.
It is in this community we find John Ferrier, survivor of raided caravan saved by Brigham Young and the Later-Day Saints. With Ferrier was a girl, Lucy, who he treated as his daughter through the years following his rescue.
Ferrier lived out this second chance in life with content, by being a decent person, only seeking peace in the home he has built. But it appears that the second chance given to him by his Mormon saviors came at heavy price that must be paid years later. And when his supposed savior come collecting his debt, his nightmare begins.
But in the middle of this terrible circumstance appears a glimmer of hope in the form of Jefferson Hope (No pun intended), who falls in love with Lucy, and swears to save them from the evil hidden behind the holiness of the Church of Later Day Saints.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ IT:
The Study in Scarlet is the story that introduced Sherlock Holmes, and it’s a great read, where it’s only fault is completely outshining the other aspect of Doyle’s writing.
If you take away the first part, you have a tragic love story full of drama, action & adventure that takes you for a ride across the entire spectrum of human emotions as you join Jefferson & Lucy run across mountains of Utah, trying to escape their Mormon pursuers. Each page, I grew to know the hero & heroine’s motivations and desires, the troubles they had to overcome and the inevitable fate they had to accept that led to the machinations of the mystery Holmes had to uncover.
Read it in that order, and you will find that the real hero isn’t Holmes at all, but a misunderstood man who has lost everything and in his final moments tries to put justice in its place.
The Valley of Saints is a hidden gem in the collection of stories connected to Sherlock Holmes, and it isn’t the only one, the Sign of Four for example.
Now, if you are the type of person who likes a great adventure story of love, deceit & betrayal, this may be a story worth looking into.
*In some reprints of the book, this part is called: The Country of Saints, but in what I have read years ago it is Valley of Saints and I am referring to the the book I had at the time.