The story begins, as usual, with the appearance of a visitor at Sherlock Holmes’ quarters on Baker Street. The man is a doctor, Dr. Mortimer, and he has come to Holmes with a rather intriguing problem. He begins by reading an ancient manuscript that was committed to his care by a man named Sir Charles Baskerville. Dr. Mortimer served as Charles Baskerville’s doctor before his sudden and rather unusual death.
The manuscript that Dr. Mortimer reads is a strange legend passed down through the Baskerville family for many years. According to the legend a certain Hugo Baskerville of the Baskerville line was a wanton and evil man guilty of many wrongs. One night while out on the nearby moor he was seen being pursued by a strange hound creature of unusual size, with glowing, dripping jaws. This hound of hell apparently hunted down and killed Hugo Baskerville. The legend ends with a warning to all men of the Baskerville line that whatever they do they should never go out on the moor at nighttime, for fear that they too may be pursued by the Hound of the Baskervilles.
Holmes is only a little amused by the story, but then Dr. Mortimer goes on to relate the real reason why he has come to seek help. Dr. Mortimer tells Sherlock Holmes and Watson the tale of Sir Charles Baskerville’s death.
Sir Charles Baskerville was found dead in a small alley near his estate. It was evident that he had died from some sort of heart strain. Dr. Mortimer tells Holmes the specifics of Sir Charles Baskerville’s death as reported by the local newspaper, but then he tells Holmes the rest of the story that the press has not been told.
Before his death Sir Charles Baskerville had a strange fear of the moor and told Dr. Mortimer that he feared that he was being pursued by a hound-like creature. When Dr. Mortimer examined Sir Charles Body he also found footprints off to the side, not the footprints of a human, but the footprints of a giant dog.
It is far too late for Sir Charles Baskerville, but Dr. Mortimer has an important issue that need to be considered. The heir to the Baskerville estate is Sir Henry Baskerville, and soon he will come to live on the moor where his father did. Dr. Mortimer fears that whatever it was that killed Sir Charles Baskerville may also be a danger to Sir Henry Baskerville.
The case becomes even stranger when Sir Henry Baskerville makes his visit to Holmes the next day. He tells Holmes and Watson that he has received a strange warning made of words cut from a newspaper. It says, “As you value your life or your reason keep away from the moor.” Before long Holmes determines that Sir Henry Baskerville is being followed by someone.
Sherlock Holmes feels that something very strange is happening with relation to Sir Henry Baskerville, but he has a very important case that he must finish first. Instead Watson is sent to Baskerville Hall with Sir Henry Baskerville to keep watch on the situation and keep Holmes alerted if anything important happens.
Before long it becomes even clearer that there are very strange things happening around Baskerville Hall. Sir Henry Baskerville has a definite enemy, and whether it is a supernatural creature, an animal, or a human is unclear. Only Holmes will be able to unravel the mystery before it is too late.
“The Hound of the Baskervilles,” by Arthur Conan Doyle was originally published in The Strand magazine between August 1901 and April 1902. It was this novel that really launched Doyle’s wonderful character Sherlock Holmes into international fame. Readers lined up in front of The Strand’s London offices to read each new installment of “The Hound of the Baskervilles” as it came out.
Compared with the other shorter stories about Sherlock Holmes, “The Hound of the Baskervilles” is able to go into much greater detail about Holmes’ scientific and intuitive method of untangling mysteries and tracking down crime. In addition the story has a lot more characters than other Sherlock stories. Arthur Conan Doyle does a good job of defining them and referring to them in such a way that the reader can keep track of them.
Although “The Hound of the Baskervilles” is definitely much different from Doyle’s other short stories about Sherlock Holmes I’m sure that all mystery lovers will enjoy this classic novel.