My goal is to eventually make my way through all of these must-read titles. These books have been around for so long and read by so many that another generic review from your average reader seems unnecessary. Instead, I thought it would be fun to take a look at what some of the experts have to say about the stories that paved the way for their own success… and how their perspective compares to my own reading experience. Today, I’m looking at Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles.
At Baskerville Hall on the grim moors of Devonshire, a legendary curse has apparently claimed one more victim. Sir Charles Baskerville has been found dead. There are no signs of violence, but his face is hideously distorted with terror. Years earlier, a hound-like beast with blazing eyes and dripping jaws was reported to have torn out the throat of Hugo Baskerville. Has the spectral destroyer struck again? More important, is Sir Henry Baskerville, younger heir to the estate, now in danger? As Holmes and Watson begin to investigate, a blood-chilling howl from the fog-shrouded edges of the great Grimpen Mire signals that the legendary hound of the Baskervilles is poised for yet another murderous attack…
Laura Benedict has been a fan of Sherlock Holmes since childhood, when she lost herself in the “boys’ books” that her friends didn’t understand. After reading The Hound of the Baskervilles, a part of me wishes that I hadn’t put him off for so long… but at the same time, I feel like I already sort of know Holmes, just because of the influence he’s had on the books I do read (perhaps most apparently in the adventures of Aloysius Pendergast).
This is the oldest book on this list that I’ve actually read in full – remember, I watched Macbeth, and though I skimmed/studied some of the ancient classics, it’d be a stretch to say I really read them. It’s getting close to my unofficial limit of 1900; books published earlier than that intimidate me (good job, high school), but I’m determined to cross that barrier sooner rather than later.
I’d call Sherlock Holmes a good gateway classic for someone like me. The language takes some getting used to, but it’s not too great a barrier. In fact, once I got used to it, I found that it adds to the old-fashioned charm, and perfectly captures the atmosphere of the Baskerville estate.
But the real excitement comes in reading about the character himself. “He toys with the criminals he hunts. He toys with Watson. He is a compulsive manipulator who walks a fine line between breaking the law and upholding it. If he were to become a criminal, he would be a splendid one.” He’s captivating, and I can’t wait to read more of him.
“Conan Doyle’s skill at combining compelling story elements with Holmes’s fascinating, maddeningly complex character propelled The Hound of the Baskervilles far into the future of storytelling so that it serves as a benchmark for the modern thriller.” I think it’s safe to say it deserves its spot on this list.
Twenty-five down, seventy-five to go…
Next month I’ll be discussing Tom Clancy’s The Hunt for Red October.