Book Review: Hound of the Baskervilles

14 Jan

As seen in previous blog entries, I’m a mad collector of the beautiful (and expensive) clothbound Penguin Classics series. I’m on a quest to buy them all, but along the way, I figure I’d better read a few of them.

So, to start off the series:

Title: Hound of the Baskervilles
Author: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Straight off the bat, one thing that drives me crazy in classic novels is the endnotes. The person who has decided to revamp the book includes all these pages at the back explaining exactly why Sherlock Holmes would never wear a felt-hat in an outdoor setting, what a dog carriage is, why the name Coombe Tracey was invented and so on and so on. For the most part, I find them extremely interesting, and I think they provide a lot of great background and interesting facts I might not have discovered otherwise.

But they ruin the damn book!

About halfway through the novel, I discovered who the murderer was and who exactly is behind this Hound. Thanks endnotes.

Now, being the logical reader you are, you may be eager to point out that I can always just read the endnotes after I finish the novel. Which yes. Is a possibility. But then I get to the end and I have to backtrack through the whole damn book to find the specific note, and half the time I don’t even remember what went on in Chapter 3 anymore so it doesn’t make as much sense.

My suggestion is to include the endnotes, sure (actually, why not just make them footnotes? Seriously – then I wouldn’t need two bookmarks), but just like IMDB, throw out a good old fashioned **SPOILERS HERE! LOL!** and do me a favour.

On to the review:

I like Sherlock Holmes. I always thought he was pretty cool, but after seeing the recent film that came out in 2009 with Jude Law, I was mightily more invested. I went out and bought a book containing several of the famous mysteries – Five Orange Pips, The Man With The Twisted Lip, The Red-Headed League etc.(For a full list of his short-stories, see here)

They were all great, and although there’s one or two I still need to read, I really enjoyed them. So I was thrilled to see that Penguin Classics had a Sherlock book, especially one of the stories I’ve been meaning to read.

Hound of the Baskervilles takes place mostly on the Moor, and is a bit of a cross between your normal murder-mystery and the supernatural. In the endnotes, they include a lot of facts about different remakes of the movies, which is really cool – I’d like to watch all of them to see the different ways they told the story, but I don’t think I’m ready for about 8 viewings of essentially the same movie.

Regardless of the fact I knew who the murderer was, I was eagerly awaiting the appearance of the Hound, which only came in the second-to-last chapter. Was it actually real? Was it a supernatural beast, like some of the characters suspected? I assumed the former, as I didn’t think Holmes was the type of dude to mess about in things that aren’t even real, but you never know.

As always, the trust sidekick, Dr. Watson, played heavily in the novel. I think it’s an interesting feature of Conan Doyle’s work that his protagonist isn’t really his protagonist. You usually feel closer to Watson, since it’s him telling all the stories, but it’s always Sherlock you’re impressed with, even though Watson does a fair bit of the leg work, I must say. Also, Watson has got to get some new friends. Even when he gets married, he’s always leaving his wife for days to go help out Holmes. There’s bound to be a buttload of gay fan-fiction and homosexual literature studies done on their relationship. Pun… intended?

The endnotes (damn, they really are handy) also spoke of the final book where Holmes meets his death. I’m excited to get around to reading that one.

All in all, definitely a good investment. And – I know why there are bugs on the cover now! That’s another reason I’m eager to read these beauties – to discover why the covers have the image they do. An added benefit. I would totally buy this for a loved one who loves a good mystery, a classic story, and doesn’t mind having the ending ruined half-way.

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