The Hound of the Baskervilles  - Christopher Frayling,  Arthur Conan Doyle _The Hound of the Baskervilles_ is probably one of the more famous cases of Sherlock Holmes and is also one of only four novel-length treatments of the cases of the great detective. It’s a solid story and is perhaps primarily of interest in the apparently supernatural element which lies at the heart of the case. Indeed this element of the tale, along with its ultimate resolution, is very interesting when viewed in the light of Doyle’s subsequent conversion to spiritualism and when looked at from this angle the numerous comments in the story about the credulous peasants who give credence to the supernatural gain a somewhat ironic lustre.

I do think, however, that the story was far from the strongest of Doyle’s outings with his most famous creation. Its main failing lies primarily in the fact that the real draw of all of these stories is largely absent for the bulk of it: Sherlock Holmes himself. I wonder whether Conan Doyle was trying to keep his distance from the creation whose popularity he had begun to view with a growing ambivalence? As it is we do have the opportunity to see Watson acting on his own as Holmes’ agent which is of some interest, but I’m afraid that he doesn’t hold a candle to his confederate as a fully compelling character study. Stolid and not without resources as an investigator he may be, but there really is no substitute to the biting commentary and unique perspective of Holmes himself.

I will avoid giving much of a plot outline, since it’s probably either already known or not desired due to the possibility of spoilers in the case. Suffice it to say that an apparently insoluble death leads our intrepid team to the foggy moors of England’s West Country where they not only hope to solve one death, but also to prevent another. Doyle goes all out in peppering the trail with utterly ambiguous clues and numerous strands and false leads until things can be brought to their ultimate and satisfying conclusion. I did learn one interesting tidbit: apparently as far as Dr. Watson is concerned it's ok to let an insane psychopath go free as long as he will leave England and only be a burden and a danger to the people of South America. Nice one, doc.