“Everyone knows SHERLOCK HOLMES. Now is the time to rediscover him.”
These were the words on the back cover of my edition of ‘Hound of the Baskervilles‘, and I wholly agree. In fact I must say I had no idea Sherlock Holmes was so much fun! Again, here is a popular book (indeed, a cast of characters) that has been depicted extensively in cartoons and film, the latest being the blockbuster ‘Holmes’ starring the lovely Jude Law and notoriously unhinged Robert Downey Jr. Perfect casting as far as I’m concerned, but it always bugged me that I had never actually met with the real ‘Holmes’, the original, untampered version thought-up by Doyle. So I decided it was time I found out what made this literary figure so great in the crime-fiction genre.
As with ‘The Wizard of Oz’, I couldn’t help approaching the story with a certain mish-mash of varying images of the legendary Holmes and his sidekick Dr. Watson. On the whole, I was expecting a pedantic, slightly scary/ crazy guy (complete with quintessential English dry humour), whose brain is permanently hard-wired with an unusually uncanny level of intelligence. And to an extent I found the above to be a staple part of his character, so I was pleased that they kept pretty much to Doyle’s creation. However, what I discovered in this book was a much darker version of the detective. For one, he smoked a rare type of tobacco rumoured to be cannabis which can be seen in this novel. He is also reputed to be a cocaine user, who oddly abhorred the tought of visiting an opium den for his fix. The drugs were, of course, perfectly legal back in 19th century England and didn’t cause the slightest stir back then; but having them connected to a character of clear logic with today’s knowledge of the drugs puts Holmes in totally different light, suddenly giving him a depth that suggests a men battling with his inner demons. And his oddball attitude certainly supports this theory, especially since his way of looking at the world is so very different from the rest of us.
Of course, discovering the ‘real’ Holmes wasn’t the only positive. Dr. Watson turned out to be made of much sterner stuff than his TV/ film counterparts. He is an intelligent man, with a wit that only just falls short of Holmes’ brand of prodigious divining.
As far as the story goes, Doyle keeps to the usual time-honoured rules of crime-fiction by ‘showing’ rather than ‘telling’. The narrative is also handsomely varied between third-person story-telling, diary entries and the favourite ‘epistolary’ style of its’ day. The plot starts off at a rather good pace with no time wasted in establishing a gothic ambience with the legend of a hell-hound that dogs the ancient Baskerville family. The size of beast and its terrible penchant for human flesh puts a slightly ‘lycan’ spin on the whole mystery, but this is soon dissipated as Holmes starts unravelling what he terms as a yarn spun by a most singular and diabolical adversary.
There are plenty of action-packed moments, and the ending was especially satisfactory which is a must for a mystery novel. Having looked at the other titles in this series and I’m glad to see they are slightly more gory and have a wider scope in terms of location and plot.
3/5 stars to a good rollicking tale!
- Hound of the Baskervilles sniffs out wide audience (greatpenformances.wordpress.com)
- The Complete Sherlock Holmes (Barnes & Noble Leatherbound Classics) (stuffinsidebooks.com)
- Killing Sherlock Holmes (messinmyheart.wordpress.com)
- meilufay’s #CBR4 review #66 A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan-Doyle (cannonballread4.wordpress.com)
- 7 Books You Should Read This Winter (dangerouslee.biz)