Hound remains the one Sherlock Holmes title, and one of the few mystery titles of any sort, that even a complete newcomer to that genre has probably heard of. And with good reason. It’s not just the best known but also the best executed of the 60 tales, most of them short stories, that Doyle wove around his famous sleuth.Certainly, readers put off by the pretentious bloat of today’s marquee thrillers will appreciate the lean efficiency with which this century-old masterpiece evokes, explores, and eventually extinguishes the ancient curse that ostensibly caused the death of Sir Charles Baskerville. The main “character” here, its presence surpassing even that of Holmes (who remains offstage for a long stretch of the book’s middle section), is Dartmoor, the eerie, barren, fog-shadowed region where the eponymous beast and the Baskerville family have each carved out an ancestral home. A musty, late-Victorian air clings to Doyle’s social attitudes and, here and there, to his prose. But from the first chapter—which closes with the immortal utterance “Mr. Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound!”—to the final summing-up that Holmes performs for Watson in their cozy Baker Street digs, this melding of a detective story with a gothic horror tale retains its original bluff charm and sinewy power.
ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE. The Hound of the Baskervilles (1901).