Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Hound of the Baskervilles: Review

Since I've been struggling with my reading (and as a by-product, my blogging) lately, I decided to go back to something tried and true--Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and The Hound of the Baskervilles. Sherlock Holmes never lets me down. Give me a good old Victorian mystery set on the moors of England and watch the reading doldrums fade away.

This is the classic story of Sir Henry Baskerville and the legend of the giant hound that haunts his family. Is it really true that a spectral dog hunts down all the Baskerville men as retribution for Sir Hugo's dastardly deeds in the 18th Century? Sherlock Holmes is unwilling to believe it until he can rule out all possibility of human involvement, but recent events have Dr. Mortimer, a man of science, thinking it may be true.

The tale really starts with Sir Charles Baskerville, Henry's uncle. Sir Charles had returned to Baskerville Hall only two years ago having made his fortune abroad. He settled down to the life of country squire and was spreading his wealth amongst the less-fortunate around him. There seemed to be no reason for anyone to wish him harm. Then the rumors start flying that a giant hound has been seen and heard on the moor. Sir Charles, who has a weak heart, becomes anxious and dies one night near the moor--of "natural causes." Dr. Mortimer, the attending physician, is uneasy. There are no marks of violence on the body, but there is every reason to believe that Sir Charles was literally scared to death. He approaches Holmes with the legend of hound, the facts as he knows them of Sir Charles's death, and asks his advice about what to do with Sir Henry--the new baronet.

Holmes is quite sure that there is, indeed, evil abroad and sends Watson to Baskerville Hall to guard the new baronet and send reports about all that happens and all who are interested in Sir Charles. Watson gathers clues while Holmes works mysteriously in the background until the story reaches a climax on the foggy, lonely moor. A night when Sir Henry, Holmes and Watson will see the Hound of the Baskervilles for themselves....

It was nice to breeze through a book again--and not just because I've read it before. But because Doyle writes so darn well. There are plenty of Victorian-era descriptions, but not so much that the reader gets bogged down. And there's plenty of action to keep the story moving--with mysterious strangers following Sir Henry through London, the mystery of the disappearing boots, the escaped criminal out on the moors, the tall man who watches from the craggy heights, and what in the world is Barrymore, the Baskerville butler, up to at night? Great fun! And reading Holmes was like coming home. Five stars.


It may be that you are not yourself luminous, but that you are a conductor of light. Some people without possessing genius have a remarkable power of stimulating it. (p. 8)

The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes. (p. 31)

The devil’s agents may be of flesh and blood, may they not? (p. 32)

The setting is a worthy one, if the devil did desire to have a hand in the affairs of men. (p. 32)

There's a light in a woman's eyes that speaks louder than words. (p. 94)

Evil indeed is the man who has not one woman to mourn him. (p. 143)


S. said...

Love Love Love Holmes! I first read this book in 9th grade about a million years ago, and I still enjoy it.

J F Norris said...

This will always remain my favorite of Holmes adventures - stories and novels. Rick Boyer took advantage of the somewhat ambiguous fate of the villain in HOUND... and wrote his version of THE GIANT RAT OF SUMATRA with a brilliant surprise ending. You ought to read that some day.

Margaret Metz said...

We just read this for school a couple weeks ago. I agree that Holmes is one of those things you can always go back to. The stories are interesting and the writing is excellent.

Bev Hankins said...

John, you and I discussed the Boyer pastiche when I read it last year. I admit that it's pretty good (and the best take on The Rat that I've read yet--got another waiting in the wings)...but quite honestly I prefer to think the villain of Hound perished in the moor--as Watson strongly suggests.

J F Norris said...

There goes my memory again. I'm in repeat season just like the TV industry.

Bev Hankins said...

:-) My memory's not as good as it used to be either...something to with age or something else that I can't remember. I only remember the Boyer book discussion so well because you seemed to think I ought to like it better than I did. ;-)

Shirley said...

I've read this twice and loved it both times! It just never gets old.

Jenners said...

I feel like I read this so long ago (when I was very young) and I probably didn't appreciate it at all.