My mother read me The Hound of the Baskervilles when I was about ten years old. I vividly remember lying along the end of her bed and listening with rapt attention to the tale of a spectral hound on a desolate moor, of a man sucked down to a terrible death in a bog, and a brilliant detective telling me at the end just what had been going on. Sidney Paget’s vivid illustrations added to the appeal and from that moment my love affair with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his superb fictional creations began. (Thanks once again to my dearest mother who gave me so much literary pleasure).
“With long bounds the huge black creature was leaping down the track, following hard upon the footsteps of our friend. So paralyzed were we by the apparition that we allowed him to pass before we had recovered our nerve. Then Holmes and I both fired together, and the creature gave a hideous howl, which showed that one at least had hit him.” – Arthur Conan Doyle
Arthur Conan Doyle studied medicine at Edinburgh University and established himself as a doctor with all of £10 to his name. He sat back and waited for the patients to appear. They didn’t, and we can all be grateful to those non-existent patients because, had they come in large numbers, Doyle might never have created Sherlock Holmes.
To bring in money, he turned to writing fiction. Doyle had realised from reactions of readers that he could write tales that were very life-like and credible and set about creating a man who could solve mysteries. His characters evolved into Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson. In 1887 his first Holmes story appeared, but he had no idea that he had just created one of the most famous characters in literature.
Doyle wrote four novellas featuring Holmes and Watson, but The Hound of the Baskervilles has always been the most famous and popular. It provides high tension, mystery, the supernatural and the rational, a legend, mysterious doings in the dark, a bit of romance, an unscrupulous villain and a super-sleuth. What more could you ask for?
We all love to see good triumph over evil. Many of us enjoy an intellectual challenge and we love the illusion of reality when we are reading fiction. Sherlock Holmes’ feet are firmly planted on the pavements of 19th C London and we join him there, but he also takes us to more exotic locations.
I’m not alone in my passion for Holmes, but he’d not approve of me. Far too much of my house space is devoted to novels (Holmes doesn’t like novels) and I am far too emotional in my responses and not nearly analytical enough about facts. I am sure in ‘real’ life I’d find him intimidating and probably quite rude (I’d have got on much better with Dr Watson), and I’d hate to share rooms with him at 221B Baker Street, but safely between the pages of a book, I just love Sherlock Holmes!
Sherlockian scholars give this book a perfect Holmes rating of 100%. The BBC’s ‘Big Read’ poll for the UK’s best-loved novel listed it at 128 out of 200.
Join me on Dartmoor in the company of Holmes and Watson, puzzle your brains over enigmatic clues, test your deductive skills, and enjoy a great classic of the mystery genre with this fabulous book.
This book establishes many of the things we take for granted in crime novels today. Do you enjoy reading murder mysteries? Who are some of your favourite crime writers? What debt do you think they owe to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle? Discuss it with your book group or even with me by leaving a comment below.
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