Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Hound of the Baskervilles, by Arthur Conan Doyle

Warning: Don’t read this entry on The Hound of the Baskervilles until you have read it yourself!

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle asks up to suspend disbelief when he gives us his killer hound-beast in this short novel. Can such a creature really exist? Well, if the novelist says it does, then it does, simple as that. So you read along expecting some magnificent explanation for the hound. Yet when the true story behind the hound of the Baskervilles is finally revealed I thought, oh, that’s a tad corny and unbelievable.

Yet I forgive Arthur Conan Doyle’s pulling my leg a bit too hard in this story. He is a terrific story teller. That’s what these mystery stories are about anyway, a bit of magic. I was under his spell for the duration of the novel. And it’s only until the last page that the fog lifts from the whole mystery and all is revealed.

Sherlock Holmes must be one of those seminal characters in English fiction. He’s almost the perfect man: vigorous, fastidious about his appearance, and unbelievably intelligent. You would hate to stand before him with a secret in your breast: he would surely find you out in ten minutes flat. And as for the wonderful Watson, who would not want him for a friend?

Read The Hound of the Baskervilles if you want to see how English prose should really be written.

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