#99 The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
After reading the lengthy Gone With the Wind, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes' classic The Hound of the Baskervilles brevity was indeed refreshing. The same could be said for Doyle's cutting dialog, clever scenarios and curve balls to keep you guessing throughout the read.
THOTB tells a tale of an established English family cursed by an ancestor who supposedly possesses a massive hound that haunts inhabitants of their manor....or so you are led to believe. Bottom line - someone is killed, Holmes and Dr. Watson are contracted to solve the mystery/protect the heir. Many twists and turns later, mystery solved, everyone is happy.
Some words on the novel, though.
Holmes may be one of the most interesting English characters ever created. Every time he appears, the reader is enticed by his genius and enthralled by every mystery (no matter bigger or small) he solves. The novel opens with a cane left at his house; after looking at it for thirty seconds Holmes predicts (accurately) the build of the man and his occupation. Sure, it's easy when the author is creating all of this, yet there is a great charm and mystery that Doyle keeps about the detective that does not disappoint.
Watson, on the other hand, is a big boob. Sadly for the reader, Watson narrates the story with his boobery (thank my mom for that adjective) and is much more active in the novel then Holmes. The pay-off for Holmes' absence is worth it, but the cost of spending time with this medical moron is painful.
Also, Holmes and Watson have this odd homo-erotic relationship going on between them. I've read that Watson had a wife in the first few books but she isn't mentioned in this one. For no reason the pair go to an art gallery in the middle of the novel and hang out. If I had the time, I bet I could prove that Watson had the hots for the sherlock. It would go for naught, however, as it seems Holmes is asexual and has no time for silly physical or emotional happiness.
Small shock to me when reading the book - Holmes apparently has a cocaine habit (Check this article out on it). Doyle doesn't directly allude to it in THOTB but he does depict the detective brooding in a smokey room where he loses all touch with reality and becomes fully in touch with the world of the crime. Watson reports feeling very light-headed every the incident and asks to open a window. I'm not sure why Doyle would give Holmes this character flaw but it is interesting that the great Sherlock Holmes and Tony Montana have something in common.
I now see why my grandmother likes detective stories so much as they are short and fun (like this guy). However, I don't know if it should have been included on this list. There wasn't any real social commentary (other than bad guys get caught by good guys) and, unless the hound = the devil, symbolism wasn't prevalent. All-in-all a good read and I suppose a good book doesn't necessarily have to be an English teacher's wet dream to be effective.
Up next (after a short break for Harry Potter) will be sure to be a swash-buckling good time - The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas (# 98).