Review: The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Trouble is afoot at Baskerville Hall. When Sir Charles Baskerville, the current master, is found dead in his driveway with the prints of an immense hound nearby, the locals can't help but wonder if the ancient legends are true. Ever since the evil misdeeds of Sir Hugo resulted in his own death, as well as that of an innocent girl, legend has held that a monstrous, spectral hound haunts the line and kills the heirs. With these suspicions pressing on his mind, Dr. Mortimer approaches the inimitable Sherlock Holmes for help. Holmes, of course, has no patience for the supernatural, but the suspicious circumstances surrounding Sir Charles's supposedly natural death are enough to make the iconic detective suspect foul play. Harboring these ominous thoughts, Holmes and his faithful companion Dr. Watson set out to discover the secrets of the misty and murky moor before the new heir to the Baskerville estate becomes the next victim of the undeniable danger haunting the Hall.
In this best-known and perhaps most beloved adventure of the classic literary hero, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle blends mystery with the specter of the supernatural to create a haunting tale unlike any of the adventures that came before it. The endearing Dr. Watson is at his most bumbling, full of dark fears and with a propensity to get caught up in the superstitions surrounding the imposing structure of Baskerville Hall, situated on the chilling and fatal moor. Watson's chosen method of storytelling varies over the course of the novel, and his brief stint of journal entries is a little disconcerting but certainly keeps the narrative from becoming stale. Furthermore, his unprecedented and surprisingly successful attempts at sleuthing without the crutch of Holmes's brilliance are admirable and show the doctor in a flattering light, while still maintaining Holmes's superiority of method and of mind.
Oddly, Holmes is absent for much of the story, but this clever choice allows Doyle to sustain the atmosphere of mystique he so carefully constructed in this classic tale. Readers will find themselves caught up in the intrigue, unsure until the very end whether something hellish is truly lurking in the midst of the boggy mires of Dartmoor. Holmes is, of course, as brilliant as ever and makes the complex deductions for which he is famous seem effortless. The character is at his most complex in The Hound - frustrating with his secrets and inscrutable riddles, but also fascinating and charming in his brilliance and quirks. Embedded in this entertaining but hair-raising tale are some deeper philosophical questions about the true nature of fact and fiction which make for more than just a scintillating mystery. The Hound of the Baskervilles is a provocative piece which will leave readers wondering long after justice again reigns supreme.