Sunday, 27 January 2013

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

*** Warning: review contains spoilers.

The author of “The Hound of the Baskervilles”, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, was born in 1859 in Edinburgh. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle attended Edinburgh University to study medicine and established a practice in Southsea. Conan Doyle’s occupation as a doctor had an influence in the creation of the character Dr Watson. The first novel containing the character Sherlock Holmes and his assistant Dr Watson was “A Study in Scarlet” which was published in 1886. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was interested in spiritualism up until his death in 1930.

“The Hound of the Baskervilles” was first published in 1902 and is set at the end of the Victorian era. At the start of the novel Dr James Mortimer, who lives on Dartmoor, arrives at 221 Baker Street (the house of Sherlock Holmes) to request the help of the legendary detective in solving the mysterious death of Sir Charles Baskerville. Dr Mortimer informs Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson about an old legend which tells of a giant supernatural hound that is said to plague the Baskerville family. Sherlock Holmes dismisses the idea that Sir Charles was killed by a giant hound. Dr Mortimer goes on to tell the two that the heir to Sir Charles Baskerville’s estate Sir Henry is to arrive in England soon. Sherlock Holmes entrusts Dr Watson to see that the new Sir Henry Baskerville does not suffer the same mysterious death his uncle did.

Dr Watson accompanies Sir Henry to Baskerville Hall on Dartmoor and examines the spot in the gardens where Sir Charles died. There he finds a footprint of a large animal and concludes that Sir Charles died from a heart attack whilst being pursued by this large animal. Dr Watson also learns that a dangerous convict who has recently escaped from prison is roaming free on the moor. One evening Sir Henry Baskerville and Dr Watson hear a noise in the house and follow a light in one of the corridors. They find the servant Barrymore and his wife with a candle. Dr Watson forces the pair to tell him what they are doing. Barrymore’s wife tells Dr Watson that the escaped prisoner on the moor is in fact her brother and that they have been supplying him with food. Dr Watson and Sir Henry Baskerville pursue the prisoner over the moor, however they fail to apprehend him. The next morning, before he is asked to leave, the servant Barrymore tells Dr Watson that he knows of a second man who lives on the moor.

Thinking that this second man might be connected to the death of Sir Charles Baskerville, Watson scours the moor in search of him. Dr Watson finds a stone hut where he thinks the mysterious second man has been living. Watson is about to leave the hut when he hears a person outside. Watson sees the owner of the hut standing outside, it turns out to be Sherlock Holmes who has followed Dr Watson and Sir Henry Baskerville since the start of the case. Dr Watson and Sherlock Holmes are about to return to Baskerville Hall when they hear the call of a hound and a painful scream. Holmes and Watson find the dead body of the escaped prisoner and see a strange glow in the distance.

Sensing that the life of Sir Henry Baskerville is in danger Holmes decides to lay a trap to see if a giant hound really does exist, and if so who controls it. Dr Watson and Sherlock Holmes pretend to return to London whilst sir Henry Baskerville has dinner with another resident of the moor named Stapleton. Holmes and Watson lie in wait outside Stapleton’s house and observe him feeding a large animal kept in an out house. When Sir Henry comes out of Stapleton’s house a large hound pursues him. Sherlock Holmes fires on the hound killing it and then chases the hound’s master Stapleton into a mire where the villain dies.

The novel was enjoyable to read and there were no points at which the story was not interesting. The best part of the book was the eccentric character of Sherlock Holmes who is able to easily solve a complicated case. Another highlight of the novel is the character of Dr Watson whose medical knowledge is an asset to Sherlock Holmes when solving any case. Another enjoyable part of the novel was the use of an animal as a murder weapon which makes this book different from others in the crime genre. Also the idea of Sherlock Holmes being a consulting detective, and not working for the police or anybody else is a great idea. This book is probably the most famous in the Sherlock Holmes series and should be read by anybody who enjoys the work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Review written by Angel Thomas, Year 8

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