The Hound of the Baskervilles, by Arthur Conan Doyle, is a classic Sherlock Holmes case involving the murder of Sir Charles Baskerville, the resident of Baskerville Hall. Sir Charles’ family is supposedly cursed by an enormous, supernatural black hound who is destined to kill the family heir. And indeed, Sir Charles dies mysteriously with the footprints of a large dog found near his body. As the mystery unwinds and Sherlock Holmes continues to amaze the reader with his sleuthing skills, it is clear that danger will continue to follow the next resident of Baskerville Hall, Sir Henry Baskerville. It is also clear that everyone is a suspect in Sir Charles’ death.
The book is a simple 255 pages, but so filled to the brim with detail and thought that it somehow seems longer. Doyle’s vocabulary and ease at making the smallest detail a compliment to the mystery keep one attentive and intrigued. This is not the sort of book which one may simply dose off as they read, for it requires complete attention. Doyle chooses Dr. Watson, often seen as Holmes’ sidekick, as narrator. He continuously expresses how Watson admires Holmes and hopes to impress his good friend and teacher by solving the case.
The characters, who are almost all suspects, are incredibly important to the story line and the solving of the case. As with all mystery novels, both false and true identities are placed on the suspects as they are investigated, so Doyle allows the reader to come up with their own conclusions until he reveals the truth himself. Each character has an alibi, whether true or false, which add to the mystery.
Supernatural beings and the superstitions that go along with them are a big part of The Hound of the Baskervilles. With the possibility of a hell-born creature being responsible for the killing, Doyle is able to change some of Holmes’ and Watson’s tactics as they work on the case, adding a thought to the reader of whether the case is better left unsolved. However, because mystery novels often involve supernatural beings that are really just covers for the all too human culprit, the reader may quickly decipher that there is much more to the story than ghosts or demon dogs.
As for superstitions and folk tales, the book opens up with the tale of the Baskerville curse and, as one reads, it is clear most members of the town take it quite seriously. However, a few find the tale foolish, but are still wary of giving a confident explanation of certain events.
One of the true meanings of the book is that a greedy person will go through harms way in order to get what they crave. Greed can change a person entirely. It can overcome all emotions and thoughts, manipulating ones ability to perceive what is right and wrong. Overall, it can make a person do horrible things, which they might not have done if greed was not flowing through their veins.
Another meaning of the book, which is often present in mystery novels, is that a person’s crimes follow them to the end of the earth and that in do time, karma will take its toll. In the end, one doesn’t get anywhere by lying, cheating, killing, stealing, etc. This is often shown when the “bad guy” of the story is caught and all is well, but in this day in age, one is not so naive. People lie and cheat every day to get what they want, which seems to have become something of the norm. The definition of man has been warped and twisted to such an extent that one does not know what kind of idiotic monster it could become if it has not already.
As evolution has taken place it’s become more and more difficult to decipher right from wrong. Sometimes it seems the only option is to lie or cheat, or in other words, why tell the truth and face the punishment when one could lie and force the blame on someone or something else? It’s quite odd how easy it can be for a society to manipulate a person into doing the exact opposite of their natural instinct. So much has changed since the beginning of time that it’s hard to know exactly when the human race was better off, or if they are even headed in that direction. Such questions are almost impossible to answer, so perhaps it’s best to leave it at that.
The Hound of the Baskervilles is an A-list book, because it is very well written and detailed to such an extent that one must give the author their complete attention. Also, the true meanings expressed in it allow the reader to think and relate to what happens in the real world.