Friday, 14 December 2012

The Hound of The Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Everyone knows who Sherlock Holmes is; the Victorian era London detective with his iconic cap and pipe has inspired countless film adaptations, including the current series starring Robert Downy Jr, as well as TV series, computer games and even a board game... that I love by the way. When Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created this character over one hundred years ago, I doubt he had in mind the high levels of fame Holmes would reach. Doyle has written over 50 cases for his most famous creation to solve. 

I was drawn to The Hounds of The Baskervilles in particular to be my first Sherlock Homes experience for its surreal element, a frightening hound that stalks the descendants of the Baskerville family to death.  Once I adjusted to the style of writing, which usually takes a couple of pages with a book that's over a hundred years old, you sink into the story's rich, dark mystery. There is always a danger when you read these older books that the plot structure and mystery could seem dated and cliched and even the twist can be unsurprising and obvious. But I found Hounds to hold up extremely well against the test of time. The diary and letters structure never feel very dated. It's well paced, slowly unravelling the clues one by one.   
Smoking can cause cancer, but make you think more clearly.
I love the setting. You can't beat a creepy old house in the middle of the foggy moors. It's the perfect location for this tale. Interestingly for one of Sherlock's most famous outings, he is absent from the majority of the story. Instead, we follow Watson out from smoky London into the foggy English country side. It's from his perspective that the story is told, so you never really get a real insight into the insanely logical and scientific mind of the man himself, who is almost superhuman in his investigative skills.
It's not the longest book and I read it over the course of a couple of days, which is the kind of length I like. You're drawn in quickly and the story unravels without ever getting boring before you reach the final conclusion. The final explanation of the mystery, that if you attempted to figure out yourself would take a lot of guess work, reveals a lot of facts that have been concealed to us as the reader but are of course well known to the great detective. But nevertheless, it was still an really enjoyable ride, full of atmosphere and intrigue.
Well worth a read.

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