I read The Hound of the Baskervilles as a bit of post-GRE brain decompression. Most of the books I am reading at the moment are related to my doctoral research proposal and are thus rather heavy. Also, because Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel is out of copyright, I was able to read it for free on my iPhone during a couple of my lengthy daily commutes. Previously, I had used similar bits of unallocated time to listen to the many recordings of Sherlock Holmes short stories that are available through iTunes University.
The Hound of the Baskervilles was the first novel-length Sherlock Holmes story I have been exposed to. While it did a nice job of letting me celebrate liberation from special triangles and the peculiar vocabulary favoured by GRE-writers, it wasn’t especially satisfying as a piece of fiction. I found most of the plot elements predictable, uninteresting, or both. Perhaps Sherlock Holmes as a character is better suited to the vehicle of a short story, in which he can make some clever deductions, unravel a mystery, and be done with things within a reasonably short span of the reader’s time. When extended out to novel length, readers will tend to see his deductions well in advance of when they are revealed, somewhat diminishing our admiration for the character’s intellect.
The novel including an annoying tendency to have Holmes go on about how this particularly case is singularly more complicated and important than his previous work. This claim doesn’t stand up very well, when you consider that some of his previous adventures included involvement in matters where war threatened between great powers or where sinister conspiracies had to be unravelled. Without revealing too much about the plot, it seems fair to say that the matter at hand here is of relatively minor significance and the mystery is not so unfathomable. Even Watson – the reliable narrator who primarily plays the role of being astonished by Holmes’ insights – nearly figures the whole thing out for himself.