One of Sherlock Holmes’s defects —if, indeed, one may call it a defect—was that he was exceedingly loath to communicate his full plans to any other person until the instant of their fulfillment. Partly it came no doubt from his own masterful nature, which loved to dominate and surprise those who were around him. Partly also from his professional caution, which urged him never to take chances.A Suspicious Death. A Mysterious Warning. A Terrifying Legend. Two Missing Boots. An Escaped Convict. An Inheritance. Hounds from Hades. A Deadly Moor. A Burgeoning Love.
I find that writing anything about The Hound of the Baskervilles, billed as the greatest mystery ever written, is a bit intimidating. My initial reaction to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s masterpiece, which was first published in book form in 1902, is that it is so much like a modern novel, unlike the other three novels, in which Doyle wrote a long backstory after the murderer is known. This novel builds to a terrifying conclusion. It includes multiple suspects and misdirection. Doyle plays on the reader’s fear of the supernatural and creates a terrifying setting, the moor that can swallow up a whole pony. The story is dominated by Watson, who is a much more relatable character than the aloof Sherlock Holmes. I am left wondering how Doyle went from writing a very good stories to writing a brilliant story.
When I read a classic or a novel that has received almost all glowing reviews, I find that looking at what the book stirs up in me is almost as interesting as the book itself. With The Hound of the Baskervilles, I can imagine Dr. Watson using his umbrella as a sort of magic wand to open my eyes to inspiration. I can hone my observational skills when I read other novels. I can also think more like an author when I look at the world around me, looking for the seeds of a plot twist, a setting, or a new legend.