Re-reading the original Sherlock Holmes stories. The Hound of the Baskervilles is arguably the most famous Holmes tale, if only by name and reputation than anything else. Does it hold up?
Facts of the case: This novel-length story takes place several years before The Final Problem. Holmes is contacted by a Dr. James Mortimer, who believes his friend Sir Charles Baskerville has been murdered, and the murderer aims to kill Charles’ son, Henry. Holmes sends Watson ahead to the Baskerville estate in the moors. Henry falls in love with a beautiful neighbor lady, while suspects lurk all about. Holmes rejoins the case later, as everyone fears the culprit might just be not human, but a ghostly hound.
Great detective: Holmes does not immediately dismiss the idea that something supernatural might be going on. He leaves it open as a possibility, but only until all other possibilities have been eliminated.
Good doctor: Watson is apparently getting better at being a detective, as Holmes praises Watson’s improved deductive skills. Watson is asked to accompany Henry not just to gather clues, but also as an armed bodyguard.
Who’s at the door: Henry Baskerville is something of a world traveler, having returned to the Baskerville estate after many years away. He’s described as rugged and muscular. By the time the story ends, however, he says he needs a vacation to calm his nerves.
Inspector Lestrade joins the case near the end of the book. We’re told that he no longer dislikes Holmes, but instead now treats Holmes with a reverential manner.
Action hero: Before leaving London, Holmes and Watson stake out a suspect who leads them on a chase through the city streets. In the countryside, Watson makes several dangerous nighttime trips out to the moors, where there is not only the hound but an escaped convict to deal with. It all builds to the big confrontation with the monstrous hound, who doesn’t go down until after Holmes pumps five bullets into it.
Yes this is canon: Holmes flat-out lies to Watson, not staying behind in London but hiding out near the Baskerville estate and spying on everyone from a distance. During this time, he lives all Tarzan-like in what is basically a small cave out in the woods.
Indubitably: Sherlock Holmes doesn’t appear throughout the entire middle section of this Sherlock Holmes story, and that will likely be a deal-breaker for a lot of readers. If you’re down with the whole “gloomy gothic” style, though, there’s a lot to enjoy here.
Next week: Back from the dead.
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