The Hound of The Baskervilles, by Arthur Conan Doyle – Book Review

The Hound of the Baskervilles

In The Hound of the Baskervilles, Sherlock Holmes and trustworthy partner, Dr. Watson, investigate the mysterious death of Sir Charles Baskerville on the moors of his estate in Devon.  When the footprints of a giant hound are discovered near the body, locals suspect that it is the work of a family curse that had also ended in tragedy for the family in an earlier generation.  Time is then of the essence because if an ancient curse is indeed at work, then Holmes and Watson have to get to the bottom of things before the latest of the Baskerville heirs falls victim.

I hadn’t read any Sherlock Holmes in a really long time, probably since middle school.  I remember loving the stories at the time, and loving the Holmes and Watson relationship.  So I was in for a bit of a shock about the nature of Holmes and that relationship as I picked up The Hound of the Baskervilles.  This story was a bit darker than the stories that I remember, with Holmes a more cynical character- his relationship with Watson more condescending and more manipulative than I remembered.  Not quite the lovable and focused detective I remembered, but definitely an interesting one.  I was pleased to read other stories to discover the Holmes that matched more carefully what I remembered.  The Hound of the Baskervilles marks a place in the Sherlockian canon where Holmes personality and eccentricities are often exaggerated, and not to his credit.

Holmes bad attitude notwithstanding, The Hound of Baskervilles has all the elements that you would expect from a rousing detective story, and has the key elements that you come to expect from a Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson story.  A mysterious guest arrives at Baker Street, Holmes deduces many things about him (out of apparently nothing), Watson is shocked, and Sherlock agrees to take the case – which only his expertise can solve.  This is one of the four novels that Doyle wrote about Sherlock Holmes and as a result you really get to know some of the suspects, most of the action is located in the Baskerville estate in Devon, and an interesting subplot supplements the main story.

It’s rare that I can pick out the murderer in a Holmes story, and this one was no different.  There is a supernatural element in the story and the closest that I came to knowing anything was figuring out whether I believed that element played a role in the murder.  I was happy to play the spectator and see how everything worked out.  The moor was a sinister and standout character in the story and I enjoyed the descriptions of its wild and dangerous beauty.  The suspects that I had to choose from had engaging backgrounds, and to my credit I am not sure that it was indeed possible for me to have known whodunnit until I found out at the very end.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 New Sherlock Holmes Books

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  1. I have this copy. I still haven’t read it even though I bought it last Christmas! I’m looking forward to it though.

    I listened to your and Jen’s podcast. I really enjoyed it! I ended up accepting a pitch for The Sherlockian after listening.

    1. I am so glad that you enjoy the show and I hope that you like The Sherlockian as much as we did. I thought it was a lot of fun and I enjoyed the ways that it played with the way we read mysteries.

  2. I’ve never read any Sherlock Holmes. We saw the movie last year and I was confused by parts of it. I had to get my mother to explain some things. She was shocked that I’d never read any Holmes and told me how much she loved those books growing up.

    1. The stories are definitely not confused and for the most part they are a lot of fun! I am shocked as well Kathy that you managed not too read any.

  3. I listed this book as one of my choices for the 2011 Vintage Mystery Challenge. I’m looking forward to reading it, and I’m glad to hear it’s unpredictable.

  4. I have actually only read one Sherlock Holmes, and was surprised too at how much darker it was than my preconceived notions about him. Nice review – I like how you observe that the moor is a character in the story.

    1. They are interesting stories to read. I think they have a lighthearted perception, but they are a lot darker than you would think. But at the same time, because they are not incredibly gory and are short, they are fun to read.

  5. I read this earlier this year and really enjoyed it as well. Such a fun story and I really had no idea what was going on and who was the culprit!

    1. I think as a kid I blocked it out, bit I also think it just depends on the stories that you read. He was a lot nicer in the early stories.

  6. I think this novella definitely has a different feel than other Holmesian novels. I think I read a lot of Holmes maybe five years ago. Like you, I was surprised at how condescending he was towards Watson. But then, he was condescending to everyone, I guess!

    Have you watched the new version of Sherlock on PBS? SO GOOD.

    1. i think his condescension and everything is more pronounce in this one. The author had issues with the character at the time that he was writing this, which is rather amusing to me.

      I did not see the PBS version. I regret that I missed them. I will have to be on the lookout for when they repeat them or release them on video.