One fictional character that fascinated me, since childhood, is Sherlock Holmes. The tension, suspense and intrigue of his cases, the fascination of his methods and, finally, the realization, the joy, as he solves cases, ensures the reader has a roller coaster ride. Holmes, to young and old, is what Tintin was to the child.
Canon Doyle wrote 4 novels and 56 short stories about Sherlock Holmes. The book that sends shivers down your spine, especially if you’re a teen, is “The Hound of the Baskervilles.” Just the title is enough to frighten. For a generation raised on the graveyard scene from the “Omen,” with the dogs baying for blood, “Hound of the Baskervilles” is a frightening image that plays in your mind when you read the title.
The plot, of “House,” is simple. It’s also intriguing. “Hound” is about a curse, placed on a family. A big black hound enforces the curse.
As “Hound” opens, friends find Sir Charles Baskerville, murdered, lying dead on the grounds of his country house, Baskerville Hall. They believe his death is due to the curse that follows his family, now, and has for several generations. Fear thus consumes Baskerville Hall.
The ancient legend, associated with the curse, involves Hugo Baskerville. Infatuated with the daughter of a yeoman, Hugo imprisons her in his bedchamber. She escapes, but a drunken Hugo sets his hounds after her.
Searchers find Hugo and the young woman, both dead. She apparently died of fear and fatigue. Over the body of Hugo, stands a giant, threatening hound that appears to have taken revenge for the young woman.
This curse dogged the family for generations. It’s believed the cause of the death of Sir Charles. There’s widespread fear the hound will kill the next in line, for the baronet, Sir Henry Baskerville.
While Sir Henry is in route from Canada, family friend, Dr. James Mortimer, goes to London to ask Holmes for help. Mortimer tells Holmes and his partner, John Watson, MD, about the legend, adding how footprints of a large dog dug deep into the soft ground next to the body of Sir Charles. Holmes dispatches Watson to Baskerville Hall, as he looks into the legend and the reasoning behind it. Once convinced about the cause of the murder, Holmes joins Watson and the Baskerville family to solve the mystery, in a riveting showdown with the villain.
The book does a good job of retaining the suspense until close to the end. The one small drawback is that Holmes appears late in the book. Until Holmes appears, the focus is on Watson and the other characters. This is also good, in the sense it helps us to understand and associate ourselves with the peripheral characters. This makes for interesting reading, especially for those who have read a lot about Holmes.
Adding to the suspense and tension, of the plot, is the setting. Baskerville Hall sits in the dark, hazy moors of English. The setting provides a grim, sometimes scary, mood to the story.
“The House of the Baskervilles” is an excellent read for those already introduced to Holmes or those who are new to the character. “Hound” is engaging, thoughtful, brooding and witty and engaging as well. I highly recommend this book to everybody.
Chris Bennett writes from Uxbridge, Middlesex, UK
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