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Author: Arthur Conan Doyle
Genre: Crime, Classics, Gothic
First Published: 1902
When a seemingly impossible crime is committed, everyone relies on the infamous Sherlock Holmes to solve the case, but never before has Holmes been asked to solve a crime that appears to have been committed by the supernatural...
When Dr. James Mortimer walks into 221b Baker Street, neither Holmes or Watson quite know what to make of the remarkable case that is laid before them. Dr. Mortimer has come to ask Holmes to look into the death of his wealthy friend, Sir Charles Baskerville. Sir Charles suffered from nervous problems an d had a weak heart, so his death, though sudden, was not out of the ordinary. What was unusual however, was the gigantic hound paw-prints the doctor had noticed near the body, which supposedly belonged to the hound of the Baskervilles, a supernatural fiend that haunts the family, due to their rogue ancestor.
Intrigued by the case, Holmes sends Watson to Devon with the last remaining Baskerville, Sir Henry, who has just arrived from America. The pair reside in the Baskerville house in the wild Devonshire moors, while Holmes stays in London to deal with another case. The moors are a lonely, dreary place, which Sir Henry has been warned about exploring on his own. Watson is left in charge of Sir Henry's safety, but with an eerie howl echoing across the near-deserted moors, and the few neighbours not always appearing as they seem, can Watson keep Sir Henry safe from threats that are very real, whether they come from a natural or supernatural opponent?
This is the first Sherlock Holmes book I have read and the first thing that struck me about it was its readability. The writing style was really easy to read, so for anyone who is put off classics because of their complex wording, you don't have to worry about this in this book!
I was intrigued in the storyline from the very beginning, as the mention of the Baskerville ghost hound was not something I would expect to find in a Sherlock Homles story! It was incredibly interesting listening to Holmes reveal his bizarre (yet correct) explanation of events at the end of the novel, which only a master like Holmes could uncover.
It was particularly interesting to see Watson conducting the investigation on his own while Holmes was in London, as he had an opportunity to show off the skills that he had picked up from his companion. And, as in all good crime novels, everything was ironed out at the end of the novel, including the seemingly trivial disappearance of a boot.
I thoroughly enjoy my first ever taste of a genuine Sherlock Holmes, and I will be embarking on the entire collection before long! This is definitely one book that I would recommend to everyone.
Favourite Quote: Sadly I didn't make a note of one as I was enjoying the book too much!
For lovers of the Sherlock Holmes short stories, this is an absolute treat. It opens in classic Conan Doyle style with Holmes & Dr Watson trying to guess the identity of a visitor to their rooms from the clues on his walking stick. When the visitor returns we find Homes has it spot on, of course - & there are Holmes trademarks like this a-plenty.
The visitor is a young Devonshire doctor, & the tale he tells of hellhounds & dead lords sets the scene brilliantly with a perfect atmosphere of tension & mystery.
Sir Charles Baskerville has been found literally scared to death at his manor house on bleak Devonshire moorland, & the culprit appears to be the huge demonic hound of local legend.
His successor seems to be in similar danger & the young doctor hopes to enlist Sherlock Holmes' help, but a mystery stalker is already one step ahead of them. Dr Watson goes to stay at Baskerville Hall & his suspicions fall on the butler & his wife who clearly have secrets to keep, but as the investigation progresses the surrounding countryside - itself sinister & treacherous to the unwary - seems to be full of eccentric characters with their own mysteries & hidden agendas.
The story is written as usual from Watson's point of view, from his journal & the letters he writes to Holmes from Devon. It does seem strange to have Holmes missing from so much of the action, but it makes his reappearance at the end all the more welcome, & there's more than enough going on in the story to compensate.
The clues to the mystery are present throughout the story & it all comes together very pleasingly at the end, with no off-the-wall surprise elements to make us feel cheated.
More used to the short stories, I was concerned that The Hound of The Baskervilles might seem overlong & saggy, but I've since discovered it was originally serialised in Strand magazine which presumably is the reason it's so tightly written & gripping, & - despite being written in 1901 - an easy, rattling read.
The Hound of the Baskervilles is Sherlock Holmes most famous case, its usually the one that gets made first as a film or television series, personally its not my favourite but has all the elements of a classic Holmes mystery.
Whats the story?
Well this is a classic Holmes novel in that the story has some ancient aspect too it but there is a modern reason for fearing what is going to happen next. Basically the rich landowner Sir Charles Baskerville is found dead on his front drive apparently from a heart attack, his face has a look of shot and there are mysterious animal tracks near the body. The tracks bring up the old myth concerning an ancestor of the Baskervilles who was killed by a specral hound.
So the story moves on, as with quite a few Holmes mysteries it starts with the contrast between old england and the colonies, here the descendent is a Canadian called Sir Henry. Henry goes to see Holmes after some strange and unexplained events including the theft of a shoe from his hotel suite. Holmes immediately picks up on the thinnest of clues and advises Henry to leave the country but the man in best Canadian bravado says he will go to Baskerville Hall and the legend can go to hell.
Thats the start of the novel, we are left in no doubt about the honesty of the young man and that the old English Baskervilles are of dubious morals. They seem to deserve their fates whereas the new fresh Canadian deserves nothing more than our hope and fears, Holmes with Henry and Watson in toe go to Dartmoor to investigate the death of his uncle.
At Baskerville soon spots that Sir Charles' death was anything but natural and we enter a classic Holmesian mystery, tiny clues, sharp observations and incisive questioning soon have the facts of the case clear in Holmes' mind. However, because Conan-Doyle uses the technique of writing through Watson we are kept in the dark until Holmes reveals the truth over the case.
This technique of using Watson as the narrator is one of the authors moments of genius because it places the reader squarely in the centre of the case, we don't have any insights into the case except what Holmes tells Watson. Watson isn't the brightest man in the world but is a man of action and is dependable, we know we can trust Watson to support Holmes and through him Henry Baskerville.
So the story flows to its famous ending, the book moves onto the moor and the truth behind the legend of the spectral hound is revealed. We all know the ending but reading the original version is a pleasure, Conan-Doyle brilliantly describes the final plays and though fantastical, through his skills as an author it seems reasonable.
This is classic Holmes, its not my favourite as I said but its still brilliantly written and a joy to read time and time again. It also is one of the longest of his short stories so lends itself perfectly to adaption to a film or TV series. Maybe thats why its the first one made but any story with a spectral hound is a story worth watching in my mind.
'Never in the delirious dream of a disordered brain could anything more savage, more appalling, more hellish, be conceived than that dark form and savage face which broke upon us out of the wall of fog.'
Originally serialized in 1901, The Hound of the Baskervilles is a classic mystery novel written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle featuring his legendary fictional creation Sherlock Holmes. The story begins with a Dr Mortimer visiting Baker Street to seek the help of great detective in a very strange case indeed. Mortimer believes that the death of his friend Sir Charles Baskerville is connected to an old family legend about a ghostly demon hound that roams the moors of Dartmoor in revenge for the sadistic behavior of ancestor Sir Hugo Baskerville. A desperate Mortimer asks Holmes to investigate the murder mystery and also watch over nephew Sir Henry, due from Canada and the heir to Baskerville Hall. Holmes becomes interested in the case after studying the spooky details of Sir Charles' death and eventually agrees to meet young Sir Henry. A worried Sir Henry shows Holmes a letter he has received warning him to stay away from Baskerville which Holmes deduces was largely compiled from letters cut out of the Times newspaper the previous day. As if that wasn't enough, another very odd thing occurs when one of Sir Henry's new boots is stolen.
Holmes explains that he has other urgent business to attend to in London but will send his friend and associate Dr Watson to Baskerville Hall to look into matters - 'If my friend [Dr. Watson] would undertake it there is no man who is better worth having at your side when you are in a tight place. No one can say so more confidently than I.'
Watson duly sets off for Baskerville Hall with Sir Henry to investigate this very strange and intriguing mystery...
The most famous of the Sherlock Homes adventures, The Hound of the Baskervilles is a wonderfully atmospheric and enjoyable mystery, inspired by Conan Doyle's fascination with the bleak and ancient Dartmoor after walking there and listening to stories of local myths and legends. By this stage Conan Doyle had killed off Holmes and was tired of the deadlines and workload that came from the Sherlock stories. Dartmoor was to be the setting for a general mystery novel but as the monolithic moor - and stories of spooky goings on - stirred his imagination he decided that it had great potential for a Holmes story and decided to use his famous creation again afterall.
The notion of Dartmoor and a ghostly hound legend simply had too much potential not to pit Holmes against them.
Although a relatively short novel, The Hound of the Baskervilles does give the great detective a somewhat bigger canvas than the short stories and it is great fun to have Holmes presented with such a weird and spooky case. The analytical and scientific Holmes stands for reason in this apparently supernatural mystery - 'Do you find it interesting?' Dr Mortimer asks Holmes after relating the history of the Baskerville curse. 'To a collector of fairy-tales,' replies a yawning Holmes. The tale of the Baskerville curse takes up a couple of pages and is good fun, generating a nice Hammer type atmosphere. It isn't surprising really that it made a suitably melodramatic prologue for Hammer's excellent fifties film version starring the great Peter Cushing as Holmes.
The interesting thing about this book too is that Holmes is not present for about a third of the story. Although this seems strange it is actually quite a clever device. Watson's lone investigation is very absorbing and atmospheric as he walks the lonely moor - dotted with strange ancient boulders - and meets various suspicious local characters. Conan Doyle adds little landmarks of his own to Dartmoor like the terrible, impassable Grimpen Mire - 'A false step yonder means death to man or beast...It's a bad place, the great Grimpen Mire.'
The suspense builds up as Watson stays at Baskerville and another weird and spooky element is thrown into the mix when we learn about an escaped convict in the area roaming the moors and being hunted by soldiers - 'There's a convict escaped from Princetown sir. He's been out three days now, and the warders watch every road and every station, but they've had no sight of him yet. The farmers about here don't like it sir and that's a fact.'
Even without Holmes for while, the plot unravels with plenty of strange goings on, mysterious local characters, and lights on the moor in the dead of night. This section develops the plot and puzzle that we just know Holmes is going to apply his formidable brain to sooner or later and tell us exactly what is going on. This anticipation is another aspect that makes the book very readable and appealing and Baskerville Hall makes a wonderful location - 'Through the gateway we passed into the avenue, where the wheels were again hushed amid the leaves, and the old trees shot their branches in a sombre tunnel over our heads. Baskerville shuddered as he looked up the long, dark drive to where the house glimmered like a ghost at the farther end.'
I do love the return of Holmes to the story too. A wonderfully mythic and striking moment that has never quite been done justice in the countless film and television adaptions.
A couple of chapters consist of letters transcribed by Watson to Holmes bringing him news of the case and are good fun to read and a nice touch. The central premise of Sherlock Holmes is that we are read and learn about him through Watson's memoirs and these devices are a nice addition to that idea. You get a real sense of Watson looking back at his life and adventures with Holmes - 'The extract from my private diary which forms the last chapter has brought my narrative up to the 18th of October, a time when these strange events began to move swiftly towards their terrible conclusion...'
The book is very readable and the ancient curse angle really draws you in and makes you eager to see how Holmes will solve the puzzle and what will be revealed. There are many secrets for Holmes and Watson to uncover on these wild, timeless moors.
The Hound of the Baskervilles is a hugely enjoyable and atmospheric piece of escapism and great fun if you are a fan of the Sherlock Holmes books. It can read relatively quickly and has a great sense of atmosphere and some clever twists. Highly recommended.
. . . in a literary sense, that is.
Reading some of the excellent existing reviews nearly put me off writing mine. But I must have my say, and will therefore take a slightly different approach.
Doyle's background and the story's background have been covered in great detail. So I'll dwell on the points that set it apart from anything else of this kind.
First a quick summary of the story itself. The Baskerville family has been hounded, pun intended, for hundreds of years by the family curse, in the shape of a hell hound. It began with the depraved Hugo Baskerville, and most of his descendants have died violent and unnatural deaths. This includes the death of the recently late Sir Charles Baskerville. His doctor and trusted friend Dr Mortimer, hopes to prevent the only living heir, Sir Henry from meeting the same fate. He is returning from Canada to take possession. Dr. Mortimer turns to Holmes, though still unsure whether it is a matter for a detective or a priest.
Holmes sends Watson with Dr. Mortimer and Sir Henry, to investigate, keep Holmes informed and Sir Henry safe. Later Holmes appears himself and brings the case to a hair-raising but logical conclusion. Elementary.
It has been called the best mystery ever written. It has supernatural aspects, as well as an intriguing investigation and significant elements of gothic horror. I would call it classical and classy horror. It is where the real genius of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle comes in. He terrifies the reader with the perfect mix of descriptive skills and suspense, but never resorts to cheap violence.
The wild bleak landscape with genuine threat of the moor is as even Holmes says "the perfect setting, if the Devil did choose to have a hand in the affairs of men".
And this skill of getting into the reader's head puts this mystery in a class of its own. Personally, I read hardly any other fiction than thrillers. But the suspense that makes them enjoyable, also turns them into disposable items. I t has to be an exceptional book that I can enjoy for a second time. Yes, even a good memory can be a curse at times. If you pick up a book you read a while ago, and find you remember everything after reading the first few pages again, you may as well not bother.
Not so with The Hound of the Baskervilles. Knowing the story doesn't in the least weaken the effect on the reader. One small example, those who know the story will recognize it but it won't spoil it for those who don't. Near the beginning of the story Dr Motimer says "Mr. Holmes, they were the foot prints of a gigantic hound!" It doesn't matter how many times you've read it, it will always make your hair stand on end and you pull your feet up. I dare anyone to contradict this, this is crime writing at its peak! Unlike those books that require gallons of blood on every other page to keep you interested, Doyle's writings use brilliant psychology to achieve a far better effect over an over again.
There is one detail I can't figure out to my satisfaction. As always, the outcome is very logical. Explaining his reasoning to Watson, Holmes states he knew about one significant detail even before leaving London. Admittedly, anyone is probably slow in the uptake beside Sherlock Holmes. But that just isn't good enough for me. I keep wondering, am I dense for not noticing these obvious clues? Or is it the author's genius that makes you race through the pages without paying attention to clues? Opinions on that would be appreciated.
To conclude, it is my opinion that it doesn't compare to "similar" works, at least not from other authors. It stands alone. Which is exactly the problem you're faced with if you desperately want to read more of the kind.
Perhaps one has to do, or rather presume to attempt, what Professor Tolkien did. He said that he couldn't find the books he wanted to read. So he was compelled to write them.
If I don't do the same, it won't be for the want of trying.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did not invent what we now consider to be the classic detective novel. That claim can be forcefully made by Wilkie Collins with his novel 'The Moonstone', but Doyle more than anyone else developed the genre and with Sherlock Holmes the original gentleman amateur detective, he created one of the most enduring characters in literature and cinema. 'The Hound Of The Baskervilles' published in 1902 was the third Sherlock Holmes novel and in many ways is the most well written and ambitious of all. It is not only a brilliantly crafted detective story but also crosses over in to the realm of the supernatural and horror, an early example of how these two genres can be effectively merged. THE REAL SHERLOCK HOLMES As with the previous novels the central characters are Sherlock Holmes and his friend Dr John Watson. Sherlock Holmes never existed in real life but he was based on a real person, Dr. Joseph Bell. Conan Doyle met Dr. Bell in 1877 at the University of Edinburgh Medical School where Conan Doyle was studying to be a doctor. Dr Bell was one of Doyle lecturers and later became his mentor. After graduating Bell selected Doyle to be his assistant. During those years Doyle was able to observe the methods that Bell applied to his medical work in particular his ability to quickly deduce a great amount of information about his patients just from simple but careful observation. "We teachers find it useful to show the student how much a trained use of the observation can discover in ordinary matters such as the previous history, nationality and occupation of a patient." These deductive skills became the main trait of Sherlock Holmes detecting skills and Doyle as the observer and pupil cast himself in the character of Dr. John Watson, Holmes's loyal assistant and friend. THE PLOT The idea for writing 'The Hound Of The Baskervilles' was largely down to A
rthur Conan Doyle's good friend Fletcher Robinson. While holidaying together Robinson took Doyle to see the foreboding landscape of the English moors complete with their sinister prehistoric ruins and the treacherous boggy terrain surrounding them. Robinson also told Doyle of the many local legend that existed about the place. These legends included those of murderous escaped prisoners stalking the moors for victims and of a 17th-century tale of a cruel aristocrat having his throat torn out by his own dog. Doyle himself interested in the occult transformed these stories in to the tale of 'The Hound Of The Baskervilles' and set the novel on the bleak and dangerous area of Dartmoor in Devon. The story begins with Sherlock Holmes and his assistant Dr Watson being visited by Dr. Mortimer who has come to seek their help in investigating the sudden death of Sir Charles Baskerville. Sir Charles apparently died of natural causes but Mortimer suspects that the 'curse' of the Baskervilles is to blame. The legend tells of how an ancestor of Sir Charles, the evil Hugo Baskerville, was killed by a huge demonic hound stalking the moonlit moor. Ever since that day the family has been haunted by the presence of the hound and many of the family have suffered unexplained sudden deaths. With the latest death of Charles Baskeville the family title and lands are inherited by the young Henry Baskerville who has been living in Canada but who is now returning to England to claim his fortune. Dr. Mortimer is worried that Henry is in danger and asks Holmes to meet him and to try and solve the mystery of the curse. Holmes decides to take the case and initially sends Watson on alone to the isolated Baskerville Hall to keep Henry Baskerville out of harms way and to find out more information relating to the unexplained death. Doyle now begins to weave in to the story a variety of colourful and mysterious characters; the secr
etive family servant Barrymore, the eccentric Dr. Frankland, Stapleton the butterfly collector and in the background there prowls the 'Notting Hill murderer' Selden recently escaped from Dartmoor prison. Is the death really a result of an evil curse or has Holmes himself states "The devil's agents may be of flesh and blood, may they not?" In the end the mystery is finally solved as a terrifying confrontation takes place on the deadly mist covered Grimpen Mire an area of the moor covered in deep pools and stretches of quick sand. WHY IS IT SO GOOD? Arthur Conan Doyle in contrast to many other detective writers could also write eloquent descriptive prose. In this novel he uses that ability to really bring to life the lonely and foreboding landscape of Dartmoor, a perfect location for a scary supernatural mystery. "A dull and foggy day with a drizzle of rain. The house is banked in with rolling clouds, which rise now and then to show the dreary curves of the moor, with thin, silver veins upon the sides of the hills, and the distant boulders gleaming where the light strikes upon their wet faces. It is melancholy outside and in." Throughout the story the nature of the moor is used to create a spine-chilling atmosphere that permeates through all the events that take place. As the story unfolds we begin to think of the Grimpen Mire as being a supernatural demon itself lying in wait to swallow up any unfortunate creature that dares to enter its domain. The novel is also interesting that it places Watson at centre stage for a large part of the narrative, quite a few of the chapters are in the form of written accounts by Dr Watson to Holmes explaining how his investigations are progressing. This is interesting since Watson represents the everyman figure in the story, he is much more emotional and responsive to the feelings of others, he is not stupid but does not possess the
deductive abilities of Holmes. In this way we as the reader are given to opportunities to pit our own deductive skills against those of Holmes but it is only later that we find out how inferior Watson's abilities (and our own) are. "The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes." The third element of the story is the supernatural thread that Doyle introduces with the legend of the 'hound from hell'. Again the writer's literary skills are in evidence in some wonderful descriptive passages that if read in a quiet dark room on a cold winter's night by the light of a small table lamp are guaranteed to make the hair on the back of the neck stand to attention. "A hound it was, an enormous coal-black hound, but not such a hound as mortal eyes have ever seen. Fire burst from its open mouth, its eyes glowed with a smouldering glare, its muzzle and hackles and dewlap were outlined in flickering flame. Never in the delirious dream of a disordered brain could anything more savage, more appalling, more hellish be conceived than that dark form and savage face which broke upon us out of the wall of fog." As with all the Sherlock Holmes novels and indeed the numerous short stories a key element in 'The Hound Of the Baskervilles' is the relationship between Holmes and Watson. Holmes's great intellect comes at a price, Holmes is a flawed character, to some extent a misogynist and a drug addict. He doesn't suffer fools lightly and is often prone to fits of temper. Just as he is addicted to cocaine he is also addicted to his work, his intellect requires to be tested, the harder the case to solve the more he becomes enthused. "There is nothing more stimulating than a case where everything goes against you." The long suffering Watson is the ultimate friend often abused by Holmes in deed if not in words and yet he always remains
by Holmes side. There is a strong bond between them and despite Holmes genius he would be lost without Watson. This aspect of the characters doesn't come across very well in the many film adaptations that have been made of this and many other of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries but is much more evident in the books and stories. The vulnerability in Holmes's characters I believe makes him a more rounded and more palatable creation and adds depth to the narrative, which elevated the stories above the mostly formulaic genre of crime fiction. The nature of the Watson and Holmes friendship serves as a blueprint for many other detective double acts that followed from Poirot and Hastings to Morse and Lewis. Overall I think 'The Hound of the Baskervilles' is the best detective story ever written. It has all the elements that are needed for a great crime mystery; a wonderful intriguing central story including a supernatural element, masterful descriptive writing that bring to life the bleak landscape in which the mystery is set, colourful characters doubling up as potential suspects, plenty of red herrings and many twist and turns to keep the readers on the edge of their seats guessing right to the end and above all the inspired literary creation of Holmes and Watson as the ultimate crime fighters. You could want no more from a detective mystery or indeed from a work of literature in its own right. 'The Hound Of The Baskervilles' (176 pages) is published by Penguin Books, ISBN: 0140621970 as part of their 'Penguin Classics' series priced at £1.25 Thanks for reading and rating this opinion. © Mauri 2002
The ancient legend of the Baskervilles has persisted in the family history for generations. It is Sir Charles's mysterious death in the grounds of Baskerville Hall that brings Sherlock Holmes to the scene of one of his most famous and intriguing cases.