This third of four Sherlock Holmes novels written by Arthur Conan Doyle is considered his best. It was originally serialized in “The Strand” magazine beginning in 1901, and published in book form in 1902. It has been adapted for film and play— including satire—numerous times since then.
Dr. James Mortimer seeks Holmes’ assistance after his friend, Sir Charles Baskerville—a man known for philanthropy—is found e outside his ancestral estate in Devonshire. The cause of death is ostensibly is a heart attack, but Dr. Mortimer is convinced there’s more than meets the eye. Sir Charles died with a look of absolute horror on his face then there’s, well, the legend.
He produces an 18th century document, written about an unsavory 17th century Baskerville forbearer who is said to have sold his soul to the devil and had his throat torn out by an enormous black dog for his trouble. The same enormous black dog is rumored to plague Baskerville descendants and not far from poor Sir Charles’ body Dr. Mortimer himself saw a paw print. He is concerned now for Sir Charles’ nephew Sir Henry, who is coming from Canada to take over Baskerville Hall.
Of course Holmes is intrigued, though he dismisses the legend of the curse and the supernatural dog out of hand. He and Dr. Watson, who is in the habit of recording their adventures, will meet Henry. Soon, odd, inexplicable things happen. Sir Henry leaves his new boots outside his hotel room to be cleaned and one of them is stolen. Later, it is returned, but an old boot disappears. Sir Henry is confounded, but Holmes is not surprised.
Most of the action takes place in gloomy Devonshire and much of the book is organized into missives that Watson sends back to Holmes ostensibly back in London and diary entries. This gives a limited and at the same time intimate view of what’s going on. When Watson hears a woman crying in the night, he can get no explanation but sees the red eyes of the butler’s wife. A beautiful neighbor lady mistakes Watson for Sir Henry and warns him to leave. What does she know? Has she seen or heard the hellhound?
Doyle’s hound and legend of an unsavory ancestor drew on the Cabell Tomb in Buckfastleigh where residents built a mausoleum to contain the supposedly restless spirit of a hunter who ran with his dogs after he should have stayed put.
This book is a lot of fun and has stood the test of time, both for Sherlock Holmes fans and for those who just like a good yarn. While certain elements of the tale of aged, the dreariness of the house and the landscape is still effective. The friendship between Holmes and Watson works well here,too.