The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, third in the Sherlock Holmes series, is one of the best mysteries I’ve ever read. It’s like running a 400-meter race. You run the first hundred meters quick, then subsidize and maintain a sustainable speed for the next 200 meters, and then dash and sprint for the remaining distance. To be very honest, I had high expectations from the story, especially after reading The Sign of the Four, and the novel surpassed each one of them. I consider myself lucky to have had a chance to read this masterpiece, and with great admiration for Sir Arthur, I present to you my review of The Hound of the Baskervilles.
Summary of The Hound of the Baskervilles
Beginning in Baker Street, London, The Hound of the Baskervilles takes you to England’s countryside in Dartmoor, a town where a gruesome mystery has surfaced after the mysterious death of Sir Charles Baskerville, baronet of British Nobility, who was living a retired life in his ancestral mansion, the Baskerville Hall. As the legend goes, the Baskerville family has a curse of a giant hound upon it, which is believed to be the reason for the deaths of many heirs of the family.
To investigate the issue and to serve as an accomplice to the new heir of the Baskerville clan, Sir Henry Baskerville, Sherlock Holmes sends Dr. Watson along with him to Dartmoor. Events that unfold subsequently leave you in shock and surprise on more than one occasion. Several mysteries pop up and die down, apparently, leaving the reader guessing. This creates engagement much more than the earlier two novels.
Except for Sir Henry, Dr. Watson, and Holmes, every one of them is a suspect. And until the last chapter, the book gives away absolutely nothing! There’s a time, somewhere in the middle, when you feel that the story is dragging with unnecessary information. However, as you reach the penultimate chapter, you realize the excellence of Sir Arthur in keeping secrets!
The Art of Building Up
One of the biggest draws of The Hound of the Baskervilles is the way Sir Arthur builds up the story. Right from the get-go, there’s a mystery being built up, promising an explosive climax. This is the art that makes Sherlock Holmes novels the best works of detective fiction.
The steady pace with which the story moves gives ample details and time to understand and get familiar with every aspect of the story. This not only gives a rich reading experience but also a perfect backstory to comprehend the epic ending. There are a couple of jaw-dropping moments, especially towards the end, which was possible only because of the steady pace and minute details.
The moment when you discover the truth and the way it reveals itself is mind-boggling. However, as you reflect back later, you realize that the clues were always there. That’s the perfect magic a writer can, leaving you in awe of his excellence.
Out of the three Sherlock Holmes novels I have read, that is, A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of the Four, and The Hound of the Baskervilles, the latter has the most interesting characters. Almost each of the characters had enough meat to make them relevant to the plot, while also giving enough space for the reader’s own imagination.
In fact, this was a novel where we truly got to explore Dr. Watson, as the majority of the story relies on him. His own intellect, which I find more humanistic and real, was a fascinating depiction. In the previous two novels, he was quite an understated character, with the majority of bulk on Holmes’s shoulder. The Hound of the Baskervilles cements Dr. Watson as a worthy companion for the iconic detective. The way he carries himself and conducts his investigation in the rather dreary countryside in a subtle manner is pleasantly surprising.
Another fascinating thing about the characters in this novel is how striking the way they were, especially Stapleton and his alleged sister. They popped up in a way that made you think, “Wow, what was that!” This is possible only when they have layers beneath them, adding more substance to the story.
Language & Readability
While I was expecting the usual British tone in the story, it was less troublesome this time. Maybe because I am now used to Sir Arthur’s formal language. I feel that new readers must first finish A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of the Four first, and then get their hands on The Hound of the Baskervilles. This will help them appreciate the novel more appropriately.
However, if you are familiar with the typical British tone, you can read the novel without missing anything. In fact, The Hound of the Baskervilles could easily make it to the list of best books for beginners. Yes, there is a heavy dose of vocabulary, not enough to divert your attention.
Noman Shaikh is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Bombay Reads. He grew up in Mumbai, a city he loves more than any other, and currently works as a content consultant. His expertise lies in creating high-quality academic and marketing content in the form of blogs, articles, op-eds, etc. Noman has worked with reputed brands, including Economic Times (through Spiral Media), Coinbase (through MattsenKumar), AdEngage, Della Group, GBIM Technologies, VAP Group, etc. For his published portfolio, click here. Contact Noman on noman@bombayreads for engagement.