The Hound of the Baskervilles
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is best known for the Sherlock Holmes stories. This book, published in 1902, is about a ghostly mad-dog that has haunted a family for hundreds of years. When Sherlock Holmes looks into the mysterious death of Sir Charles Baskerville, strange events begin to take place in the creepy countryside. The story stars the Sherlock Holmes, whom the author based on detective-like professors he had as a medical student in Scotland. Holmes is known throughout the world as a master solver of criminal riddles. Dr. Watson, who is Holmes's best friend, is also the narrator of the Sherlock Holmes stories.
Sherlock Holmes: The ultimate sleuth, whose razor-sharp brain is always at work.
Dr. Watson: Holmes's trusty friend.
Sir Henry Baskerville: Nephew of Sir Charles Baskerville, whose mysterious death leaves the young man a load of money.
Dr. James Mortimer: Friend and doctor to Sir Charles Baskerville.
Mr. & Mrs. Barrymore: Baskerville's butler & maid, a husband & wife team.
Jack Stapleton: A neighbor and butterfly collector.
Beryl Stapleton: A babe.
Mr. Frankland: A feisty old crackpot.
Laura Lyons: Frankland's bitter, disowned daughter.
Seldon: An escaped killer.
Everyone thinks a ghostly, killer dog, which has haunted the Baskerville family for generations, killed Sir Charles. Sir Henry, Charles's only heir has come back to England to claim his new money and mansion in the creepy countryside. But first, Henry asks Sherlock Holmes to clear up the haze surrounding his uncle's death.
In London, weird things happen to Henry: he gets a note warning him not to come to the mansion, two of his shoes are stolen, and a bad guy follows him. Holmes tells Watson to go the countryside with Henry to keep an eye on him. Watson notices strange things going on in the mansion. Henry falls in love with Beryl, his hot-looking neighbor, but her brother, Jack, gets mad.
Watson gathers clues and writes reports to Holmes, who is supposed to be in London. But Watson discovers that Holmes has been secretly hanging around, checking things out. Holmes is pretty sure the killer is Jack who used the legend of the ghostly, killer dog to scare Charles to death. Holmes is sure Jack has something up his sleeve to do away with Henry.
It turns out, Jack is really Henry's uncle, though he keeps his mouth shut about it, so no one will know he is out to get the Baskerville money and mansion. And Beryl is really his wife. Jack used a real-live dog dabbed with glow-in-the-dark paint to scare Charles to death. Jack was the bearded man trailing Henry through London. He stole Henry's shoe to give the dog his scent. Jack also locked Beryl in her hotel room, but she figured out a way to send Henry a warning to stay away from the mansion.
Finally, Jack lures Henry to his house at night, and when Henry is walking home, Jack sicks his mad-dog after him. Holmes shoots the dog in the nick of time and chases Jack into a swampy maze of quicksand, where Jack falls and sinks to his death.
CHAPTER BY CHAPTER
- A cane, belonging to Dr. Mortimer, is left behind at Holmes's house. Though he hasn't yet met Mortimer, Holmes sizes the man up simply by studying his cane.
- Mortimer tells Holmes a creepy story about the Hound of the Baskervilles, which starts off long ago when a pervert named Hugo Baskerville kidnapped a neighbor's daughter and locked her in an attic. After she escaped, Hugo chased after the girl, trailed by his drunken pals. When Hugo's pals caught up, they discovered the dead body of the girl in the middle of a field and saw a huge, gross dog from hell gnawing out Hugo's throat.
- Mortimer describes that after the recent, mysterious death of Sir Charles Baskerville (a descendant of the wicked Hugo), paw-prints of a huge dog were found near his body outside the mansion.
- Holmes grills Mortimer about the crime scene, whose only clues point to this monstrous dog from hell.
- Alone in his room, Holmes performs an experiment with smoke. He also examines a map of the supposedly haunted countryside around the Baskerville mansion.
- Holmes meets Sir Henry Baskerville, who has just inherited his dead Uncle Charles's money and mansion. Henry has a note warning him not to return to the Baskerville home. Holmes figures out that the note was written in a hotel and came from pieces of a certain newspaper. He hires a kid to look through the trash at 23 hotels.
- Henry also says a single brown shoe of his was stolen, which was brand new and never worn.
- After Mortimer and Henry split, Holmes and Watson tail the two in secret. Holmes spots a black-bearded man in a cab spying on Mortimer and Henry, but when Holmes is seen by the spy, he takes off fast. Holmes remembers the cab number.
- Henry gets pissed because another shoe is stolen, this time an old black one.
- Over lunch, they discuss the spy's resemblance to the black-bearded Barrymore, the Baskerville butler.
- Holmes decides it's too dangerous for Henry to return to the mansion alone, so Watson will go with him, while Holmes will stay in London.
- After lunch, the first brown boot is found by luck. But the old black one stays missing.
- That night, Holmes grills the driver of the cab that drove the spy. The cabby remembers the spy said his name was "Sherlock Holmes."
- While Watson boards a train for the countryside, Holmes tells him to keep an eye on Henry's neighbors and for anything that looks strange.
- Watson, Mortimer, and Henry drive toward Henry's new home -- the Baskerville mansion. They learn that a killer has escaped into the gloomy countryside surrounding the mansion. The mansion looks run-down and haunted. Inside, it is like a castle, with paintings of a long line of Baskervilles.
- Mortimer leaves for his own home.
- Mr. Barrymore tells Henry that he and his wife will soon quit working at the mansion, because they feel too depressed since Charles, their old boss, croaked.
- Watson goes to bed in a weird mood, but he can't sleep. In the middle of the night he hears the sound of a woman crying uncontrollably.
- By the light of day, Watson can tell Mrs. Barrymore had been crying, even though Mr. Barrymore says she hadn't. Watson now seriously distrusts this guy.
- On a walk back from town, Watson meets a neighbor, Jack Stapleton, who is out catching butterflies. Jack warns him about a nearby field full of quick-sand, called the Grimpen Mire, which swallows up horses and humans dumb enough to go there. Then they hear a freakish, haunting groan of some unknown creature.
- Watson meets Miss Beryl Stapleton, Jack's sister, and thinks she's pretty hot. She thinks Watson is really Henry and screams at him to get back to London, because of some danger. When Beryl realizes that Watson is just Watson, she won't tell him what her tantrum was about.
- Henry and Beryl look good to one another and start hanging out, but Jack is against it.
- Frankland watches the countryside through his telescope, hoping to spot the escaped killer.
- Barrymore tiptoes through the mansion after midnight. Watson follows Barrymore to an empty room, where he sees him staring by candlelight through a window at the haunted fields outside. Later in the night, Watson hears a nearby door open and close.
- Beryl warns Henry to leave while he can, but Henry is so turned-on by her that he won't go, and instead wants to hook up with her. Jack goes nuts and tries to break them up.
- Watson and Henry catch Barrymore sneaking around again after midnight, holding a candle to the window. Watson realizes the candle is a signal to someone standing in the field outside. The man outside is the escaped killer, Mrs. Barrymore's brother.
- As Watson and Henry try to surprise the killer, they hear the same freakish, haunting groan from the Grimpen Mire. They're afraid it might be the dog from Hell. Then they get close enough to the killer to see his ugly face, but the killer sprints into the dark fields and loses them.
- Watson sees the outline of a mysterious stranger on a hill behind them watching everything.
- Barrymore begs Henry not to tell the cops about the escaped killer, but to let him go to another country. When Henry says, "O.K.," Barrymore tells him a secret¾ when Charles died, he was outside waiting for a woman, whose initials are "L.L." Mortimer tells Watson that Frankland's daughter's initials are "L.L."
- Barrymore tells Watson that a second guy is hiding out in the countryside, the mysterious stranger that was standing on the hill.
- Watson visits Frankland's daughter, Laura Lyons. Although she’s a hottie, there's something angry about her face. She admits planning to meet Charles on the night he died to ask him for money so she could divorce her asshole husband, but decided at the last minute not to go, because another person she won't name gave her some money. Watson doesn't completely trust her.
- Watson plans to find the mysterious stranger who was watching him. He has a few drinks with Frankland, who has seen through his telescope a kid carrying food for a stranger hiding in the countryside. Watson follows the kid's path to a campsite, where he learns that the mysterious stranger is the one-and-only Sherlock Holmes.
- Watson is pissed at having been fooled by his friend. Holmes tells Watson that Jack and Beryl are really married, not brother and sister, and that Jack has been stringing Laura along on the side. They guess that Jack was the spy back in London and that Beryl sent Henry the note warning him not to return to the Baskerville mansion.
- Suddenly, they hear someone screaming nearby, and then the freakish, haunting groan of the dog from Hell. They run toward the noise and find the body of the escaped killer, who fell from a cliff while running. They meet Jack, suspiciously wandering through the dark. He seems disappointed the corpse is not Henry.
- Back at the mansion, Holmes can't take his eye off the painting of the evil pervert Hugo Baskerville, which looks just like Jack. Jack is secretly a Baskerville, hunting for a huge inheritance. Holmes plans to trap Jack, who must've knocked off Charles by scaring him to death, and is planning something bad for Henry.
- Holmes and Watson visit Laura Lyons. By telling her Jack is a married man and was just stringing her along, Holmes gets her to confess that Jack set Charles up and bullied her to stay quiet.
- Holmes and Watson hide in a gloomy field near Jack's house while night falls and a thick fog moves in. They spy on Jack while he wines and dines Henry. The three keep an eye on Henry as he begins his walk home along the foggy road. Suddenly, a giant and violent dog is seen leaping after Henry. The dog just about gnaws Henry's throat out when at the last second Holmes shoots the dog dead.
- Holmes and Watson find Jack long gone when they rush to his house to bust him. Instead they find Beryl bound and gagged in the attic. She is so pissed at Jack, she's ready to turn him in.
- Jack is hiding in the Grimpen Mire.
- Beryl shows Holmes and Watson how to find their way through the slimy field full of quicksand. There they find Henry's missing black boot. But they fail to uncover Jack, who must've slipped as he ran and was swallowed by the swamp.
- Henry leaves for a world cruise to recover from his shock.
THINGS TO MAKE YOU LOOK SMART
- Throughout the case, Holmes uses all of his five senses to gather information.
- Because all of his information is based on his senses, none of his observations can be considered an assumption, or a guess.
- Holmes uses "deduction," which is a method of stringing little details together to arrive at major conclusions.
- Holmes approaches the crime exactly as a scientist would, with no preconceived ideas about what the facts mean, and without dismissing any fact as irrelevant.
- In contrast, Watson's mind is likely to draw conclusions based on his feelings, which is what many artists do. Therefore, his narrative is full of emotionally charged imagery.
- One theme of this story is philosophical - how the mind can run away with superstitious belief if reasoning is too tied up with emotions.
- One psychological theme of the story is how evil seems to be an enduring part of human nature.
- Another psychological theme is that of loyalty. All of the characters of the story, except for the meanest ones, are highly motivated by their love for others.
- In this story, the "outside" is violent and a person's primal fears take over. It is only "inside" the house, man's civilizing stance against nature¾ that moral rules have force.