Book Review: The Hound of the Baskervilles

Image from Penguin Random House

It might have something to do with having watched and thoroughly enjoyed the Sherlock series with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, but I just love reading Sherlock stories and I had such fun reading The Hound of the Baskervilles. I have previously reviewed the complete works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, but I had to re-read this one in particular because I am about to teach it to a ninth grade English class. It has oft been touted as the very best of the Sherlock series (and thus Conan Doyle, the Sherlock series consisting of four novels and fifty-something short stories), and I can see why. If you want to know more about Conan Doyle and the whole shebang, you would do well to click on the link above to the complete series review. Heck, I’ll throw in an extra opportunity for you HERE.

I really think that the kids are going to enjoy this one. An introduction to the mystery genre, it is a continuation of Victorian, British literature (though not really on purpose). I am trying to snag interest with my choices, and I really just think… I may be totally off here. As I started off saying before, part of my love of Sherlock may come from the TV series. (See that above link for reviews of the TV series and movies). But Sherlock is also one of the most interesting characters in literature. I’m not really a mystery fan (caveat: I haven’t read that much in the way of mysteries or detective stories) but I love a good character. Who is Sherlock? Who is Watson? (A little less exciting to explore.) Throw in Moriarty and Mycroft and Inspector Lestrade and you really have so much fun. People have been interpreting Sherlock since he was wildly popular in his time. Still wildly popular because yes, the mysteries are compelling—you certainly don’t want to put the book down—but the characters are so darned intriguing.

On Goodreads, one reviewer called The Hound of the Baskervilles the “perfect novel of its genre.” It does seem that way to me. It is the quintessential detective/crime novel, even if it isn’t quite the first. Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” (or “Dan Fraulein von Scuderi” by E. T. A. Hoffman) is considered to be the first detective story though there are more obscure examples back into ancient times and in other cultures.  Poe’s “detective,” C. Auguste Dupin, was to become a favorite character of the populace. Throughout the nineteenth century, several detective story writers rose to popularity, such as Emile Gaboriau’s stories of Monsieur Lecoq and Wilkie Collins. In 1887, Sherlock Holmes appeared, and he’s hailed as the most famous of all the fictional detectives.

There can’t be much more to say here. It’s a pretty short novel and yes, you can read it without having read anything else of Sherlock, though the experience would be different, that’s all. There is wit and humor, mystery and clues, multiple suspects and imposing scenery, a dead body and a demon dog, which also makes this book perfect for fall/Halloween reading.

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