Completed: The Hound of the Baskervilles

Why must I be so often of late putting off writing about books I’ve finished? I do it, I know, because I’m  not quite sure what I want to write, but then I find myself too far from the book and it only gets more difficult. Sigh. I think I’ve found my New Year’s resolutions, if I ever made any. But what I do remember:

The Hound of the BaskervillesThe Hound of the Baskervilles
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
1902, Scotland

A long, low moan, indescribably sad, swept over the moor. It filled the whole air, and yet it was impossible to say whence it came. From a dull murmur it swelled into a deep roar, and then sank back into a melancholy, throbbing murmur once again. (Ch.  7)

About halfway through The Hound of the Baskervilles, I realized, this is why I read The Castle of Otranto. For, as lacking as I found the Horace Walpole novel, it was, in fact the first Gothic novel, and therefore the grandfather of all Gothics to come after. While in some instances, it may be just the atmosphere that harkens back to Otranto, with Baskervilles I was starkly reminded of the central plot of Otranto–that of a familial curse. Apparently, Doyle was inspired by an actual legend, but nonetheless the similarity between the two novels strikes me: there are certain building blocks of Gothic novels that appear again and again. The Hound of the Baskervilles prompts a reminder that it is good to read the founding works, even if they may not be as…appealing…as their descendents.

Now, I started this in October. And I have to say, The Hound of the Baskervilles is a perfect R.I.P. read–deliciously creepy Gothic atmosphere, a dash of horror thrown into the mystery, and it’s even set in October. If only I had finished it then! (I’m so late at writing this, I actually finished in early November.) I can see why so many people consider it their favorite Holmes story–not only is it perfectly Gothic, but the mystery is just strange enough and  the pacing is perfect. I don’t often reread mysteries as it seems that more than half the enjoyment is usually in the mystery itself and trying to work it out ahead of the “official” solving of the crime, but this one is such that I could see returning to it. In an October, of course. There may actually be enough textual evidence (primarily from letters and diary entries)–I’m going on memory here–that a reader could work out exactly which day in October each event in the novella takes place. Reading it “as it happens,” as it were, could be quite fun, I think. A plan for next year?

11 thoughts on “Completed: The Hound of the Baskervilles

  1. My one frustration with Hound is that Holmes isn’t in half of the book. Oh, he’s there, skulking and investigating, but we don’t know he’s there. I love Watson, but I miss Holmes. Have you read “The Sign of the Four?” It’s an equally delicious mystery and Holmes is in the entire story, always a plus for me. 😉

    1. I guess I was so caught up in the Gothic aspects, I didn’t find time to miss Holmes! Yes, I have read The Sign of the Four. It is definitely one of my favorite Holmes stories to date (I’ll also place Baskervilles there)–a thrilling adventure, and as you say, plenty of Holmes.

  2. I remember loving this book, but I can’t remember one half of it. I’ll have to do a reread. (How about an October readalong?)

    1. Isn’t it amazing how quickly we can forget even books we love? Hmmm…an October readalong….perhaps. If I’m not in the middle of anything else, I will certainly consider it. I’m sure it would be fun!

  3. I loved this – it was a total surprise as I’d read one other Sherlock Holmes books before (can’t remember which) and hated it! But, like Caro, I need a re-read. If you do an October readalong I’m in!

    1. I’ve had different reactions to the different Holmes books, which I think it partially due to individual stories varying in interest and partially due to the timing of my reads–sometimes I’m just not in the right reading mood for short mysteries. This one must be special though, if so many of us want a re-read!

  4. The Hound of the Baskervilles is the first crime novel I read, first adapted into a graphic novel when I was 12 and then the original when I was 13. So, I consider it my starting point in crime fiction and I love it so much for it! I haven’t read Otranto yet, but I have heard of it lots.

    1. I don’t think you could have picked a better entry point into crime fiction! I think mine was probably some of the Holmes short stories followed by Agatha Christie, but I can’t really remember for sure now. I’m not really a fan of The Castle of Otranto other than for its importance in the founding of the Gothic genre, which granted, gives it plenty of merit. Just didn’t impress me. But if you’re interested in the early history of Gothic novels, it’s probably a don’t-miss.

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