Saturday, August 18, 2012

Book Review: The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Holmes and Watson are faced with their most terrifying case yet. The legend of the devil-beast that haunts the moors around the Baskerville family's home warns the descendants of the ancient clan never to venture out in those dark hours when the powers of evil are exalted. Now Sir Charles Baskerville is dead and the footprints of a hound have been found near his body. Will the new heir meet the same fate?

Everything I'd ever encountered said this was the best Sherlock Holmes novel. Okay, I thought, and started reading. I was expecting something along the lines of Silver Blaze or A Scandal in Bohemia, two of my favorite short stories, with a creep-factor along the lines of The Speckled Band and a plot that would probably be just slightly better than The Sign of Four.

What I got completely blew me away.

Oh. My. Gosh. This book was fantastic. It's easy to see why it's the best and most famous Holmes novel. It was incredible. I can't believe I hadn't read it before now; I feel like an impostor for considering myself a true Holmes fan before reading this book.

Let's start with the setting and the description, which was completely perfect. The moor and Baskerville Hall are perfect settings for a mystery, and the way Conan Doyle describes them is beautiful. It gives such a clear picture of the setting and really sets the mood for the story, something that wasn't so prominent in other Holmes stories. It was really vivid and chilling, and there were some passages of description I read over and over to preserve the image in my mind.

Then there are the strange and unique characters populating this mysterious place. The supporting characters were much more defined and we were allowed to see more of their personality and history in this novel than in the others, making them much more distinct. Then there are Holmes and Watson, who are at their best in this book; Watson takes a much more active role in solving the mystery, while Holmes makes deductions and lays plans with incredible brilliance. They also experience more of the key plot points, rather than hearing them from a client.

The plot was full of mysteries to unravel, which were complicated without being too confusing, and even when certain aspects of the mystery became clear, there was always more to determine and find out. Probably because Watson was more involved, this novel allowed readers to puzzle the mystery along with Holmes, rather than read along and have everything explained at the end. This made it an even more enjoyable read.

I was completely blown away by this book. If you're a Sherlock Holmes fan and you've read it, read it again. If you're a Sherlock Holmes fan and you haven't read it, read it now - all the hype is true and it IS the best Holmes novel. If you're not a Holmes fan yet, read this book, and I promise you will be.


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