The Hound of the Baskervilles was first introduced to me by Wishbone. When I got to college I picked up the novel to read it but never got to finishing it. Finally, in an effort to see if I would teach the novel, I decided to finish it, once and for all. I’m glad I did.
It’s not a novel of any specific depth or significance, but it’s good writing. If you like thrillers than this is a good one to get through on lonely, cold winter nights. What I appreciated about it is that even though it was written over a century ago, Doyle is able to draw the reader in and make us just as anxious, nervous, and scared as Sir Henry Baskerville and Dr. Watson out on the cold, foggy moor. For me, a novel that doesn’t have much depth is fine as long as the writing is good. And if I can feel like I’m right there with the characters, that’s a mark of good writing.
I appreciated that Doyle also utilizes different techniques to tell his story. He uses traditional prose, letters, and journals to tell the story from different points of view. What’s interesting is that it’s all narrated from Watson’s perspective, but by using his letters and diary entries, I feel like I can experience different angles of the story. Angles I wouldn’t have seen had it been narrated like usual.
What I didn’t appreciate is that all of the build up leads to a let down in the end. I won’t spoil it for you, dear reader, but I will say, enjoy the suspense and mystery because the climax and resolution aren’t that great. Partly I think this is due to characterization. Sherlock always seems to be able to come off as bored when he solves a mystery and this translates the same to the reader. I think one down fall of Sherlock’s popularity is that whenever he enters the plot, Doyle must surrender the narration over to Sherlock and his perpetual ennui makes me feel like I shouldn’t care either. Sherlock’s explanations in this novel are hard to follow because he makes it seem like Watson (and the readers) should have seen the signs as well. But because we don’t see the story from his perspective, I feel like I’m being punished for seeing something that wasn’t right in front of me.
One thing I did notice, thanks to the help of the BBC’s Sherlock, is that I’m able to spot the villain in Sherlock’s cases like nobody’s business. So against my better judgment, I found myself yelling (in my head, of course) at Watson for not seeing that the creepy guy is probably guilty! Sheesh. You’d think after all of this time, he’d finally solve a crime or two.
All in all, it was good, entertaining writing that didn’t string readers along but was, as a colleague puts it, like a mini-skirt. Short enough to keep it interesting, long enough to cover the important parts.