The world has gone mad for Sherlock Holmes again and I have happily jumped on the bandwagon. It is the perfect time to read The Hound of the Baskervilles, considered one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s best Sherlock mysteries. Conan Doyle wrote this book 8 years after killing off Sherlock Holmes in another story. He was inspired by a legend very similar to the one depicted in THOB about a demon hound and cursed squire in Devon.
Part of the fun of reading THOB is trying to solve the whodunit. Although I did my best to predict the outcome, I wasn’t prepared to put all of my money on one person. Unfortunately, any modicum of detective instinct I possess has been ruined by too many American cop shows (CSI: Crime Scene Investigation was an addiction for awhile – yes, all three shows!). Since these shows thrive on bizarre twists that don’t necessarily make sense, the murderer is suddenly the little boy or the dog. Anything and everything goes. Instead of enjoying the simplicity of a classic mystery like THOB, I found myself dreaming up whacky motives for all of the characters.
As we all know, Sherlock Holmes has always been the star of the show. He is undoubtedly a genius and has the right stuff for solving the toughest mysteries. However, as the humble narrator of all of Holmes’ tales and his steadfast companion, Dr. John Watson rarely claims any of the glory. Yet you can’t have Sherlock Holmes without Watson. Where Sherlock is the brains, Watson is the heart providing emotion and imagination to balance out Holmes’ cold, methodical ways. He is the gentleman. He is the everyday man. It’s a relationship that completely fascinates me.
What’s surprising about The Hound of the Baskervilles is that Conan Doyle chose to let Watson lead the way and investigate the murder of Sir Charles Baskerville. For a majority of the story, Holmes is MIA. Watson has always been part of the action, but now he is the hero and we are cheering for him alone. Did Conan Doyle want to prove Watson isn’t a dullard following Holmes around? Did he want the reader to appreciate what Watson brings to the investigation and to his relationship with Holmes? His decision seemed to me the most important thing about this book.
I know some of my fellow readers in the Unputdownables read-a-long were not crazy about Watson taking charge of the mystery. I found it refreshing not to have to wait for Sherlock Holmes to mediate for 24 hours on details or condescendingly point out the minutiae overlooked in a 5-minute meeting. I like Watson and I wanted him to succeed in his own way.
When Holmes breezes on in and reveals he has been secretly conducting his own investigation, I think Conan Doyle wanted us to be outraged for Watson. From what I remember, we have never seen this kind of tension in other stories. We have never seen Watson angry at Holmes. But Watson knows what his partner is like and quickly gets over it which is what I believe Conan Doyle wanted readers to recognize. We love Sherlock Holmes and forgive his faults because Watson does and he is what connects us to a character that is wholly unlikeable, genius or not.
Overall, The Hound of the Baskervilles is unique out all of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries because it is Watson’s book. It is a thrilling mystery with creepy descriptions of the moor and the heart-stopping howls of the demon hound. The story kept me guessing the whole time, but most of all it got me thinking about the relationship between Holmes and Watson. Conan Doyle’s decision to let the good doctor lead the investigation is surprising, but affirms my belief that Watson deserves a little bit of glory himself. At least just this one time.
Rating = Highly Recommended
Now onto the Sherlock adaptation of the story! Happy reading!