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The Valley of Fear by Arthur Conan Doyle - Book Report/Review Example

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The detective classic "The Valley of Fear " written by Arthur Conan Doyle has enthralled the admirers of the detective Sherlock Holmes for almost a century. At the same time, the book examines the conditions of life in the American coal mining region. The book starts with a mysterious coded letter received by Sherlock Holmes, the detective, which warns of some danger to one Mr…
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The Valley of Fear by Arthur Conan Doyle
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Download file to see previous pages .The second part of the book describes how Birdy Edwards brought the criminal nexus controlling the mining districts of Vermissa Valley to book. He describes the conditions in the mining districts of the U.S.A in the later part of the nineteenth century, where an organized group of criminals terrorized the citizens .
Conan Doyle describes the Vermissa valley as a desolate place, with" great heaps of slag and dumps of cinders"(Conan Doyle 959) , but still a place with "hidden wealth" as evidenced by the long lines of trucks piled high with iron ore and coal. This "hidden wealth" brought a "rude population and a bustling life" (959) to the place. The iron and coal fields of the Vermissa Valley were a stark contrast to the lush prairies and pastures of America. The din of the roaring furnaces and the clanking of the machinery added to the general air of gloom. "I guess hell must have looked something like this "'.says one of the policemen . (Conan Doyle 961)
The year is 1875 and the Vermissa Valley is under the control of criminals and goons who are known to the local populace as "Scowrers". Vanessa town is a typical bustling mining township which showed a "dead level of mean ugliness and squalor" (962) The rutted broad street, the uneven sidewalks, and the unkempt wooden houses added to the depressing effect. The city center is brightly lit, with stores, saloons and gaming houses where the miners spent their "hard- earned but generous wages," according to the author.
Most of the miners belong to a secret organization called" The Eminent Order of Freemen", a secret society, which is spread all over the United States, although in the other states it is a benign organization devoted to charity and fellowship. Its members who are feared and despised in Vermissa and the other mining districts , are known as "Scowrers." They are ruled by a "Bodymaster" or Boss, who , in turn answers to a District head. The society is run for the sole purpose of terrorizing, blackmailing and extortion of small traders and owners of the mines. There is co-operation among the bosses of different districts, and the criminal activities in a district is usually helped by villains from another district. This helps in escaping detection.
The "Bodymasters" hold positions of civic authority like councilor.
Birdy Edwards who has taken the name of Jack McMurdo for this job, gains the confidence of the Bodymaster McGinty, who is the owner of a saloon and a town councilor .In a meeting, McMurdo is initiated into the society by being branded .One of the members urges them to stop their criminal activities. He says that by driving out the small traders, they would be inviting the big companies to take their place, and warns them that the big companies with their money and power would crush the organization. But the advice falls on deaf ears and the Boss replies that the big companies would also "find it easier to pay."
The author describes the rough men as sentimental. Those men who could kill and maim someone who had done no harm to them , and who did not have "any compassion for the weeping wife or helpless children" (984), ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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