It is hard to find a literature enthusiast who does not know The Hound of the Baskervilles by the British writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. To me, this is the best work by Doyle and one of the best works in the world of literature, and probably the best mystery and crime story in English literature.
Published in 1902, The Hound of the Baskervilles is an adventure of Sherlock Holmes. It is also one of the four Sherlock Holmes novels written by Doyle.
The story was first published in parts in The Strand Magazine from August 1901 to April 1902. The story became immensely popular after being published and to date is one of the best-selling novels and best-loved literature. In 2003, the novel was listed as number 128 on the BBC’s The Big Read poll of UK’s best-loved novels. It is also reported that in 1999, in another poll, the novel was ranked as the best of the four Sherlock Holmes novels. The novel is also adapted to a large number of films, TV shows, and dramas.
According to Sherlock Holmes literature, this story is the first Sherlock Holmes story written after the death of Sherlock Holmes in 1893, which means this book was published after a break of eight years.
The Hound of the Baskervilles is special for many reasons. The way the story is presented, the characters, the plot, and the settings are perfectly composed. Holmes displays his brilliant mystery-solving skills proving that myths and fables are all created by people to veil the truth and even sometimes, crimes.
The story is set in the Dartmoor valley in Devon, England, and in an old mansion that belonged to the noble Baskerville family. The story is woven around a myth or a fable about a gigantic supernatural hound that spreads terror in the valley and hunts down Baskerville family members.
The story of the mystery of the supernatural hound or the curse that has fallen upon the Baskervilles is brought to Holmes and Dr. Watson by Dr. James Mortimer. He meets them in London and tells them about the curse of a large hound that roams in the Dartmoor valley and that it hunts males of the Baskerville family. He tells how Sir Hugo Baskerville was killed by this hound and how the dog’s footprints were seen at the place where he was killed. Dr. Mortimer’s friend sir Charles Baskerville is the heir to the Baskerville property and that now he is returning from Canada to Baskerville to take over his responsibility of the large property Dr.Mortimer expresses his concern about his friend’s safety.
Holmes, as usual, does not believe in myths, and supernatural stories, and rejects the tale of the curse. Nevertheless, finding this tale interesting Holmes decides to meet Charles. Young Charles dismisses the myth of the curse. However, from the day of his arrival in England, he encounters bad omens. One is the anonymous note he gets about warning him not to visit Dartmoor. Holmes also notes certain threats to the life of Charles and sends Dr. Watson to be with him.
Mystery or reality?
Many interesting incidents take place after the arrival of Charles at Dartmoor. The large old Baskerville mansion and the lonely moor have an eerie environment and are presented as a place where sinister crimes are planned and happened. They meet Stapleton, a man who is interested in collecting insects and lives with her sister in the area. The story becomes more and more intense as Dr. Watson hears the lonely, sad cry of a hound. This makes them as well as the readers doubt whether the curse of a mythical hound is just a myth or id could actually be true.
Adding to this, the sudden appearance of a mysterious man on the moor and the news of a dangerous criminal on the loose, further tenses the situation.
Will a portrait solve the mystery?
However, Holmes finds interesting clues in a family portrait he sees in the Baskerville hall. What could it be? Will it help him solve the mystery of the demonic hound? Or will Holmes be able to save Charles from becoming the next victim of the demonic hound?
The story is presented in a way that the reader truly feels as if they are also witnessing all of this with Holmes, Watson, Charles, and Mortimer at the Baskerville mansion in Dartmoor. When the sad loud cry of the hound is heard across the lonely moor, it sends chills down the reader’s spine. Is the just the wind or a howling of a real creature?
Well, to know all this you must read the novel. It is presented in a way that once you start reading the novel, you’d not want to keep it away until you have finished reading the last word of it. One of the most interesting things about the novel is how at the beginning of the novel, Doyle brings our attention to dogs. Holmes and Dr. Watson discuss a walking stick owned by a dog owner. This draws our attention to dogs and their relationship with humans. And this also hints that the story’s connection with a hound.
Inspired by a true story?
It is reported that Doyle wrote the book inspired by a real place and family in Devon. It was the legend of Squire Richard Cambell of Brook Hall, in the parish of Buckfastleigh, Devon. To date, the tomb of Cambell in the town of Buckfastleigh is said to be damaged by a pack of mysterious hounds. He was known to be a ruthless hunter and a man who sold his soul to the devil. Also, there is folklore in the Devon area about supernatural hounds that haunts the area.
Doyle, a brilliant writer, combines this village folklore, with reality and creates an incredible crime which Holmes is sent to solve. If you have not read The Hound of the Baskervilles novel yet, you must read it right away. Trust me, the time you invest in this novel is not a waste at all.
By Ama H. Vanniarachchy