A version of this review was posted in 2012.
The Hound of the Baskervilles marked Sherlock Holmes return to literature after he was killed off by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in “The Final Problem” eight years previously. Doyle had not yet brought Holmes back to life. This story was set prior to “The Final Problem.”
Sir Henry Baskerville is the heir of his late uncle Charle’s Estate. However, his uncle passed away under mysterious circumstances and one of Sir Charles’ friends, Dr. James Mortimer comes to Holmes to ask for assistance. Local legend is that Sir Charles was killed by a ghostly hound that haunts the moor to avenge the sins of one of the Baskerville ancestors. Mortimer confides to Holmes that he found a hound’s footprint at the scene of the death.
Intrigued, Holmes takes the case, and the case gets more interesting when Holmes spots a man following them in London and someone steals one of Sir Henry’s boots. Surprisingly, Holmes doesn’t go to Dartmoor, but sends Watson to investigate and report his finding to Holmes.
Watson finds strange goings-on: suspicious-acting servants, a dangerous convict on the moor, and of course, the legend of the hound.
This remains the most oft retold Holmes story and a pioneering mystery story that has been ripped off repeatedly over the years. While it’s a Holmes story, with Holmes absent from the main action for about half the book, it gives Watson a chance to shine and show his intelligence and resourcefulness.
Despite its popularity, I didn’t enjoy this as much as The Sign of Four. However, this is a matter of taste. The Sign of Four was an action-packed thriller while Hound of the Baskervilles relied much more on a build-up of suspense. This one builds slowly and in a less skillful hand, it would have been easy for The Hound of the Baskervilles to become boring, but Doyle sensibly used Watson’s reports to Holmes and Watson’s diary entries to avoid bogging the story.
Overall, the Hound of the Baskervilles deserves its reputation as a true detective fiction classic.
Rating: 4.75 out of 5.00