As I mentioned to you the other week, a man who helped form the reader I am today sadly passed away. As you read this I will be on the train to his funeral in Kent, where I will be talking to everyone about him during the service, and I thought as a second tribute to him I would re-read one of the books he gave me many moons ago that has become a firm favourite of mine over the years. In fact I still think that ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ may not just be my very favourite Sherlock Holmes story yet also possibly my favourite Arthur Conan Doyle novel, though don’t hold me to that.
When Dr Edward Mortimer appears seeking Sherlock Holmes at 221b Baker Street he comes not only with a mysterious death but also a family curse that has latest through the Baskerville line for decades. Sir Charles Baskerville recently died of a heart attack in the grounds of Baskerville Hall on the edge of the misty moors in the English countryside. However there has been suspicion around his death as his face was filled with a terrible fear and giant paws were found by him, the giant paws of the mythical ‘Hound of the Baskervilles’. With a new heir soon to arrive from America Mortimer wants Holmes to look into the mystery, and yet weirdly Holmes doesn’t seem convinced regardless of how grand a mystery it seems.
In fact it is Watson who is sent back with Mortimer to Baskerville Hall with the instructions that he must just keep Holmes abreast of the goings on and characters in the area and Holmes will join him if he feels the need. Once Watson arrives he finds that the characters are rather dubious and the moors incredibly ominous especially when during the night howls are often heard.
I am refusing to say anymore, though I could go on and on as I love this tale so much, as to give even a snippet away of what comes after the first quarter of the book would do any new reader, or indeed any returning reader who hasn’t read it for quite some time, out of a wonderful mystery that will have you turning the pages faster than you can say ‘whodunit’.
I love the atmosphere of this novel. We start with foggy Victorian London but are soon carried away by carriage to the haunting moors and the countryside that looks so peaceful but proves to be incredibly hostile. Conan Doyle also manages to make what could be another old country house murder mystery so much more using the supernatural of which he was a fervent believer. So as well as a murder mystery you also have a rather spooky tale. All in all this is the perfect tale for dark nights when you want to escape into the fantastical and the sinister. 10/10
Even several re-reads later, and I think this most recent must be my ninth or tenth, I spot new things I hadn’t before. Ok, I know then ending but there is so comfortable in opening a book like this and knowing just where you are but being able to take in all the extras of your surroundings. I can’t recommend this book enough, I am just wondering where to head with Sherlock next? I have suddenly realised with shock I have never read ‘The Valley of Fear’, maybe I should open one of the collections and have a short Sherlock by the bed that I can dip in and out of over these winter nights.
So a huge thanks to my Uncle Derrick for introducing me to such story telling and tales, hopefully me spreading the word will encourage others to try it and leave a little legacy from a man who was a true legend in my life.
This wonderfully covered new edition was sent to me from the publisher earlier in the year when I was planning a Sherlock season… I am still mulling over the idea.