Review by Frank Plowright
Rodolphe and Leo’s fine run of stories about dedicated Mountie Philip Trent continues with this fourth outing, Valley of Fear, which begins by cranking up the tension in Trent’s life superbly. When the Lamps are Lit opened with Trent deciding to set the past to rest by visiting Agnes, the woman he loved and can’t get out of his mind. Her family home was empty and he was told she’s now married, which did nothing for his equilibrium. Rodolphe and Leo don’t start with Trent, however, but with George Petterson, an ambitious engineer who believes he’s been given his opportunity when he’s sent to replace the injured manager at a railroad construction site in the frozen wilds of Northern Canada. It’s a poor time to arrive, with the site in turmoil after a run of unexplained accidents. The Native American workers attribute these to a form of demon bear, Hoppo.
As previously, a Trent story is one of contrasts. No matter how beautiful Leo makes nature look, Rodolphe is pulling against the any form of sentimentality by accentuating how bleak human nature can be when conditions are harsh. Rodolphe’s plots combine mystery, atmosphere and a bleak sense of isolation and depression, all reinforced by Leo’s superb illustrations placing man into perspective within the vastness of the Canadian landscape. The Valley of Fear is no different, except for the finale, where Rodolphe finally introduces an element of hope for Trent. Don’t be taken in. He’ll surely whisk it away again in Wild Bill, for such is the tone of the series. Also consistent is that for all the trappings, Trent is a strong crime series, with Trent himself the tenacious investigator and not easily fooled despite forms of superstition being more prevalent during his times.
If you believe life’s hard and then you die, Trent is series for you.