I’m not sure who wrote the first ever twisty, scary, whodunnit, but it wasn’t Conan Doyle. I bet it was some innovative cave-dweller on a shadowy night around the fire. But I couldn’t help thinking about the influence Doyle had on thriller writers who followed him, as I read this classic tale. He pre-dates Agatha Christie, Ruth Rendell (who introduced my edition of the story, published by Vintage), John Connolly, James Patterson etc.
Having read a few Sherlock Holmes stories in my teens, I knew what to expect from this book and it delivered. A good pacy story, alternating between Dr. Watson’s brave everyman and Holmes’ sheer brilliance, enough red herrings to make a large bowl of chowder, and a satisfying ending with a clear explanation of every clue and its meaning. I enjoyed it and was delighted to find that despite suspecting that I would know the ending from some half-forgotten black and white movie, I was as surprised as Watson at the solution. Which really is the core of why Holmes is good. All the clues are there in front of the reader and they make sense at the end, yet we don’t reach the correct answer until the final page.
Would I recommend this 169 page story of a spectral hound killing off all the heirs to the Baskerville fortune? Yes, to any reader who enjoys a twisty plot and especially to those who enjoy stories set in the Victorian era. If your mystery and thriller shelves only contain modern authors, then you’re in for a treat.
In an interesting side-note to existing fans of the man in the deer-stalker hat…Doyle got his character’s name from the surnames of two families he met – the Holmes and the Sherlocks. One of my closest friends is a descendent of the Sherlocks involved. She doesn’t call me Watson though, thank goodness.
(read September 2011)