Thursday, February 5, 2009

"It was the footprint of a gigantic hound!!!!"

Gee whiz, Sherlock Holmes investigated some creepy cases during his career. A trained snake used as a murder weapon--a pygmy with a blowgun offing someone--an assassin with a silent air gun stalking Holmes himself.

But the Hound might have been the creepiest of them all. The Hound of the Baskervilles is as much a Gothic Horror novel as a mystery novel. And it works on both levels. Holmes does his usual nifty deductive reasoning, while Watson (on his own for a large part of the novel) proves to be a competent investigator in his own right when he needs to be. It all works just fine as a whodunit. But the setting--ancient Baskerville Manor and the surrounding fog-shrouded moors--give the whole novel a delightful aura of spookiness.

All four novel-length Holmes stories are justifiably considered classics, but Hound has always been my favorite. I like the creepy Gothic atmosphere that overlays the story. I like that Watson has a all-too-rare opportunity to prove he's a brave and capable human being. I like the suspense that builds up during the climax, when Holmes, Watson and Lestrade are waiting to catch the Hound, but the fog is growing to thick for comfort...

I'm glad I created an excuse to revisit it once again.

Next month's book: "The Saint Overboard," by Leslie Charteris.

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