The Hound of the Baskervilles

by Arthur Conan Doyle, 1902

Wonderful mystery! Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are recruited by a Dr. Mortimer and his new friend, Sir Henry Baskerville, to investigate the legend of the Hound of the Baskervilles, a giant, malicious hound that haunts the moors around the Baskerville estate, and surely caused the death of Sir Henry’s uncle. The mysteries begin even in London, with Sir Henry’s missing boots (first a brand new one, and then an old one), a warning letter using words cut out of the newspaper, and being followed by a man with a black beard. Holmes sends Dr. Watson to Baskerville with Sir Henry, with the excuse that he has pressing investigations in London to which he must attend. 

Dr. Watson meets and observes the people living in and around the Baskerville Hall and sends detailed notes back to Sherlock Holmes in London. There are the Stapleton’s; a brother who is a naturalist and a sister who is a beauty, who live in a lonely cottage on the edge of the moor. There are the caretakers of the estate, a man and wife, Mr. and Mrs. Barrymore. An eccentric Dr. Frankland, in town, who sues everyone and everybody. His beautiful daughter, Laura Lyons. An escaped convict living on the moor. It turns out (spoiler alert) that the Stapleton’s are actually man and wife, and he is an heir to the Baskerville estate, if he can only end up the last living heir. He heard about the legend of the hound, bought himself a giant dog and kept him chained up on the moor, arranged for Sir Charles to be out one evening (ostensibly to meet Laura Lyons and help her out of her dilemma), and instead the hound chased him and caused him to die of a heart attack. He had planned the same thing (sort of – Sir Henry was in love with Stapleton’s beautiful sister – really, his wife). But Holmes and Watson figure it out in the nick of time and ambush the planned attack, killing the hound before it had a chance to kill Sir Henry. Stapleton escaped onto the moor and was never seen again; presumed dead in the deadly quicksand-like areas of the moor, that if you are not careful and step into them, you are sucked into the ooze and smothered, never to be seen again.

What a wonderful book! One thing of note: unlike all the English novelists, there is no drinking in The Hound of the Baskervilles. Wine is mentioned a bit, and a bottle of spirits (in Sherlock’s cave dwelling – he was actually on the moor, watching out for Watson and doing his own investigations, the whole time Watson thought he was in London). Mostly, Sherlock likes tobacco – when he needs to think over a case, he buys a lot of tobacco, and his Baker Street abode is so full of smoke, Watson has to open the windows.

Love Arthur Conan Doyle!