My quest to become a true Sherlockian continues! Today, I’m diving into what is widely considered one of the best Sherlock Holmes stories, nay! One of the best mystery stories ever written! It’s time to talk about ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’!
Out of all the Sherlock Holmes stories I’ve read up to this point, this one is easily the best! The mystery is gripping from start to end and all the characters within it are interesting and memorable. It’s the longest one that I’ve read yet, but it perfectly utilizes every word of its length. Better yet, it puts some creative spins on the Sherlock Holmes formula! This is a rock solid mystery that I enjoyed from beginning to end!
Plot: Watson in Baskerville Hall
If you know Sherlock Holmes, then you already know how this story is gonna go. There are a few creative twists on it to make it more interesting. But you know how it’s going to go: Sherlock finds a mystery then solves it.
During Watson’s bachelorhood with Sherlock, they’re approached by a doctor regarding the mysterious death of Sir Baskerville. The two are hired by this doctor to investigate the mystery, protect the new master of Baskerville hall, and find the truth behind the old Baskerville curse of a massive hellhound.
What makes this story so interesting is how it successfully manages to simultaneously subvert the Sherlock Holmes formula while still remaining true to it. And it manages to create extra intrigue, tension, and mystery by making one crucial decision. For the majority of this story, Sherlock Holmes isn’t present!
While I do love Watson as a character, he never really has much to do with Sherlock’s mysteries. More often than not, he’s only involved because he’s the narrator and we can’t have him narrate something that he wasn’t there for. For being the central protagonist of the story, who perfectly emphasizes the insanely impressive achievements of his compatriot, he doesn’t have much presence. He’s a reactive character, whereas Holmes is an active one.
‘The Hounds of the Baskervilles’ brings Watson into the spotlight. For a good fifty percent of the story, he’s completely alone with Sir Baskerville, with no Sherlock to support him. Thus, our lovable narrator must investigate into the mysteries surrounding the Baskervilles and their neighbors on his own, utilizing both his own unique talents and his budding detective skills that he’s developed by spending so much time with Holmes. In this story, Watson finally steps out of the reactive role and becomes an active character, driving the plot along of his own volition.
This decision also goes a long way in creating tension in the story. We know that this Hound, as well as the true mastermind behind it, is after Sir Henry Baskerville. Our heroes are put on a hard time limit to solve the case, lest their client be slain just as his uncle was. But the seemingly unstoppable Sherlock Holmes, the hero of the franchise who has almost never been beaten, isn’t there! Instead, the only line of defence protecting Sir Baskerville is the noble, but woefully unprepared, Watson! It’s incredibly interesting and engaging.
Now, this decision could have ultimately lead to disaster. We all knew that, at some point or another, Sherlock would need to re-enter the fold. It wouldn’t be ‘Sherlock Holmes’ without Sherlock Holmes! If his reappearance wasn’t handled carefully, it could have completely deflated the tension of the story!
But Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was smarter than that. Rather than using Sherlock’s arrival to ease the tension, he decided to use it to escalate it! Just as the titular detective arrives, things take a turn for the gruesome as the killer begins to make movements towards the completion of his plan! Their mysterious time limit is unveiled, giving them less than a day to save Sir Henry and stop the killer!
All of the new characters are really interesting too! Aside from two of them (because women aren’t allowed to be the killers in a Sherlock Holmes story), every one of them is a suspect, with plenty enough to make them suspicious. Each of them are mysteries in themselves, all of which play into the larger mystery regarding the Hound. They’re definitely more interesting than the typical supporting cast of a Sherlock Holmes story.
I can absolutely see why this is considered the best Sherlock Holmes story! It’s incredibly unique and engaging from start to end! This is easily one of my favorite mystery novels, one I fully expect to revisit many times over the following years. It’s a rare classic that still holds up to this day!
Even if the dialogue is a bit corny. But that’s charming as hell, so I’ll give it a pass.