“If criminals would always schedule their movements like railway trains it would certainly be more convenient for all of us.”
Do not read this until you have finished chapter Chapter 7 continued and Chapter 1 of Part II, spoilers will be mentioned.
Seriously, go away and read Chapter 7 and Chapter 1 of part II.
Here come spoilers.
Chapter 7 resumes, and the case appears to have been solved only half way through the story. Those of you who saw something of importance in the moat around the house, and in the lack of the wedding ring have been proved right. John Douglas never took off his ring, and we are introduced to the body of one Ted Baldwin, whose murder we have all been trying to solve. Douglas himself, is right as rain (bar his shaving cut), and has been hiding out scribbling away.
However, no sooner than we start to get some answers from Holmes we are sent back in time to 1875 and across the Atlantic to be introduced to one John McMurdo as he arrives at the the town of Vermissa, USA. All that evidence of American influence proved to be important, including perhaps Holmes’s own mention of Moriary’s use of the ‘American business principle’ in the first chapter (which we discussed a fair bit in last week’s meeting). Is it just me, or is there a tone of an attempt to reassure the reader at the end of chapter 7: ‘do not think that I intrude one story before another is finished. As you read on you will find that this is not so […] we shall meet once more in those rooms on Baker Street’. Who is meant to be talking to us here? Watson? Conan Doyle? Douglas, who has, after all, written something in his hidey-hole? We also get a reminder of Watson’s other line of work as a writer of stories for the popular press, as Douglas offers the good Doctor a story for ‘your public’. At any rate, we find ourselves in a somewhat different tale than the one we started; one that has more than a touch of the wild west about it. What do you make of this narrative shift?
We also, after the chapters have finished, get a conspicuous intrusion of real life into our detective fiction with ‘The Strand War Game’, a chance to enact for fun the war that was being fought as this novel was being serialised. I would be really interested to hear what you think about this advert. Does this commodification of war impact on the way in which you view the story which it follows? It is worth mentioning at this point that, although in this version of the tale the Shafters are of Swedish extraction, in initial versions they were German; a conspicuous change. The versions of this part of the story I am sending out here are from an edition of the Strand which brought together issues from January to June 1915, so the war had advanced somewhat from when this chapter was first published. In terms of how this might resonate with the plot of The Valley of Fear, Martin Priestman in Detective Fiction and Literature suggests that Birlstone, the traditional English manor house, functions as a symbol of Britain, separated from the world by its moat just as Britain is surrounded by the Channel, yet affected by malign overseas forces. What do you make of this?
That’ll do from me for now I think. Part II Chapter 2 will be send out on Tuesday, and I look forward to seeing some of you at Monday evening’s meeting. There is much to discuss.
Cheerio for now,