The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

My first Sherlock Holmes!  Completely inspired by my inhaling the BBC’s Sherlock and falling in love with Benedict Cumberbatch.  I immediately picked up the only Holmes story I owned and dug in, only slightly nervous about how well the older, original stories would hold up against the newer BBC version.  I know that’s not really fair since Holmes is a Doyle creation, but all my fears were shortly put to rest!

In The Hound, the Baskerville family has been plagued by a nasty legend involving an almost supernatural hound creature.  If at any time they find themselves out on the Devon moor alone at night, bad things are sure to happen!  When Sir Charles Baskerville is found dead just outside his estate’s gate, Sherlock Holmes and his trusty Watson are called in to investigate how Sir Charles met his mysterious end.  Can they figure out the culprit of these seemingly canine murders in time to save the new heir’s life?

Weak plot description, I know.  It’s just that I don’t want to give anything away since half the fun’s in guessing who (or what) dunnit.  I was really worried that Doyle’s original stories wouldn’t hold up well in the modernity of today’s mystery novels, but definitely not the case at all.  The language and prose are both beautiful and simplistic.  In many ways, the story felt incredibly fresh and contemporary, with only the slightly archaic mentions of carriages, cloaks, and telegrams.  But even these dated references didn’t ruin the vivacity of the story – instead they added a coziness and decidedly British feel that was entirely welcome.  I’m actually shocked at how talented a writer Doyle turned out to be – not sure why I should be shocked since his novels have held up so long.

What most surprised me was how little Sherlock Holmes was actually used in this particular story.  Watson definitely takes center stage and never comes off as bumbling (which modern adaptations can sometimes fall victim to).  I thoroughly enjoyed Watson and often never even missed Holmes, but was pleasantly surprised when he showed his lovably arrogant face again.  And Holmes seemed a bit softer and more jovial in Doyle’s text than in the updated scripts of the past few years.  Two very fantastic characters for the price of one!

Honestly, the only thing that holds me back from shouting the highest praise is the book’s inability to keep me guessing very long.  I knew who the killer was quite early on as I suspect most readers will discover as well.  The plot was just a bit too transparent.  Doyle might have had better success if he’d created more characters or suspects, but when the mystery takes place in a nearly deserted moor – things aren’t going to be too complicated.

I do highly recommend fitting some Sherlock Holmes in your busy reading schedules!  Delightful characters, quickly moving mysteries, and atmosphere in spades will keep you turning the pages.  Really want to find a great Holmes collection and read all his stories and novels.  If anyone has any suggestions of a particular volume, please let me know in the comments.  What are your favorite Holmes stories?  Have you seen Sherlock?  Is anyone watching Elementary and enjoying?

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A Classics Club selection!

July’s Meetup: The Sherlockian by Graham Moore

Sunday afternoon was another pleasant day spent with the Litwits.  Our July selection was a debut mystery novel by Graham Moore and really the epitome of fun, summer read.  The turnout to the discussion was great and members definitely had opinions.  So what did the Litwits think?

First, The Sherlockian is a dual narrative tale of Arthur Conan Doyle and his creation, Sherlock Holmes.  The present day story line follows, Harold, the newest member of the most elite Sherlockian society.  The Sherlockians have gathered at the request of one of the group’s scholar’s who claims to have finally found Doyle’s long, lost diary.  Before he can unveil this much sought after treasure, Harold and friends find his dead body locked away in his hotel room.  Harold sets off to uncover the mystery of the murder and the diary.

The second narrative follows Arthur Conan Doyle himself as he deals with the aftermath of killing off England’s beloved Sherlock Holmes, a murder mystery of his own, and the eventual return of Sherlock Holmes when Doyle is finally convinced to raise his nemesis from the grave.  Doyle is assisted by his lovable best pal, Bram Stoker, as a sort of Watson to his Holmes.

Most of the ladies thoroughly enjoyed their time spent with The Sherlockian as sort of a fun mystery summertime read that didn’t require too much brain activity.  Without a doubt, the Doyle narrative was the hands down favorite and far more interesting than the present day tale.  We also really enjoyed getting to know Doyle a bit better as well as his friendship with Stoker (which is all true facts).  Throw in the additional discussion of Oscar Wilde and the book-loving Litwits were pleased.  I think everyone also really enjoyed their time spent in Victorian England and felt that Moore does a superb job of fleshing out the England of yesteryear.

As mentioned earlier, the present day narrative left us a bit wanting.  Harold comes off as a kind of bumbling protagonist and hokey detective.  Everyone agreed that no one in the modern timeline was memorable – we didn’t care about any of the characters.  Complaints were also shared about the outcomes of the mysteries and the whodunits.  The ‘killers’ kind of came out of left field and lots of plot holes were left unplugged.  A couple of members expressed their ire over wonky historical facts, as well.

Overall, the Litwits are towing the middle road here.  This novel is not great literature, but a decent debut mystery novel.  We definitely left with the yearning to read some Holmes, some Stoker, and even a little Christie.  We enjoyed Doyle’s perspective and loved learning about his mystery writing rules.  Bram Stoker stole our hearts and we vowed to get to know him better.  We thought the Sherlockians were a little cooky which led us to discuss such modern day phenomena as Comic Con and Dragon Con.  And really, a great, lively discussion was had and everyone went home happy (at least, I think so!).

Next month is Gone with the Wind!  Some Litwits are excited, some not so much.  Can’t wait to see what everyone thinks and I’m super surprised at how many have never read this book!