After the death of Sir Charles Baskerville, Sherlock Holmes of No.10 Baker Street is called upon by Dr James Mortimer, a friend of the recently deceased. Although ruled a heart attack, the death of Sir Charles seems suspicious to Dr Mortimer as Sir Charles died with an expression of sheer horror, on his Baskerville estate, and with the footprints of a giant hound nearby.
Arguably the best Sherlock Holmes story, The Hound of the Baskervilles is a true classic in crime/mystery fiction. Holmes was the archetype detective and an influential predecessor to characters that have littered the genre since. Doyle’s mastery of detective fiction has cemented him in legend. His clear methodical analysis and subtle clues have attracted audiences for over a century. The Hound of the Baskervilles is tantalising for its supernatural elements: Doyle dangles before us a rumoured curse and then cleverly deconstructs it through his lead, Holmes. In short, a novel that lives up to its fame and the perfect crime mystery filled with murder, superstition and plenty of twists.
What did you think of Doyle’s mix of mythology and true crime? Did it enhance the novel?
Why do you think Watson, as Holmes’ assistant, narrates the novel? How does this perspective effect the story?
How does the setting of the novel impact on the story? Can you think of any key events where the setting is particularly necessary?
Why do you think Doyle ultimately chose to breakdown the Baskerville hound, using logic rather than keeping it a supernatural being?
How is the character of Sir Henry Baskerville portrayed? Is this a statement about the wealthy? The-Hound-of-the-Baskervilles-Discussion-Questions.pdf
While searching the grounds of Baskerville Hall, Holmes identifies a striking resemblance between Jack Stapleton and a portrait of Hugo Baskerville. Holmes deduces that Stapleton is a relative of the Baskervilles and is potentially having his family eliminated so that he inherits the Baskerville fortune. He realises that Laura Lyons was probably only an accessory to the murder, a pawn, used by Stapleton to coax Sir Charles out, late at night.
To help with his enquiry, Holmes convinces Sir Henry to attend his dinner invitation at the Stapletons, using him as bait. Along with Inspector Lestrade, Holmes and Watson are on-route to the Stapleton residence, when Stapleton releases his hound on Sir Henry who is walking across the moor. Holmes is able to fatally wound the animal, saving Sir Henry’s life. On closer inspection, Holmes reveals that the dog was not of supernatural origin but a normal cross-breed, painted with phosphorus which gave is it the demon-like appearance. Mr Stapleton flees. Beryl Stapleton is discovered tied up inside the Stapleton residence, she reveals she no longer wanted to go along with Mr Stapleton’s plan. Leading Holmes and Watson, Mrs Stapleton travels to Jack’s hideout, traversing treacherous quicksand. Stapleton is nowhere to be seen. Recounting their steps, they find a boot near a patch of quicksand, leading them to assume that he perished.
Sherlock Holmes made his first appearance in the 1887 edition of Beeton’s Christmas Annual. The title of his first outing is A Study in Scarlet.
The Hound of the Baskervilles is Arthur Conan Doyle’s third Sherlock Holmes novel.
Arthur Conan Doyle famously fell out of love with his literary character, killing him off in The Final Problem so that he could spend his time writing historical literature that he regarded as more significant. Doyle later resurrected Holmes due to public outcry and monetary incentive.