|Posted by Vladimir Mortsgna on September 12, 2016 at 8:00 PM|
#3: The Hound of the Baskervilles - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. A Study in Scarlet is also great for introducing the most beloved, most original, and most copied character in the history of mysteries (and probably all of literature). It's a great book though perhaps not a great mystery, as the killer and the motive are not available for the reader to deduce (though watching it unfold is great every time I read it). The SIgn of the Four is also a masterpiece of suspense and characterization. As a tangent - another way that Conan Doyle was unique. Has he ever been topped for his success at both short stories and novels? At least 20 of the Sherlock Holmes short stories should be considerd masterpieces, equally memorable in their tight compact plots as most mystery novels. Edgar Allan Poe wrote three short stories like that but never wrote a mystery novel. Agatha Christie's short stories were largely lightweights. Chandler wrote great short stories but they were really just pieces of the novels. Hammett might have been close. MacDonald wrote some outstanding short stories, but his best were not mysteries.
Back to the Hound of the Baskervilles. How many cliches of mystery novels had their start in the Hound of the Baskervilles? There weren't many precursors where the identity of the killer is not known or at least suspected by the other characters. Perhaps the Moonstone though the villain of that piece didnt smell good even before we knew what he had done. In the Hound, we also have the detective who fakes being absent so he can observe the scene unawares, the revelation from a random association, the villain who taunts the detective, the family curse. And perhaps best of all, from an author with a complicated relationship with what we would now consider supernatural, a triumph of rationalism. While surrounded by people ready to jump to conclusions of a supernatural terror, Sherlock Holmes maintains his rationality and proves that there is an all-too-earthbound and base motive behind the phenomena.
By the way, it is also terrifying. I can't find it on Netflix or other sources, but I would love some day to see the version of the Hound that starred Tom Baker as Sherlock Holmes. When I was a young lad and had not read any of the stories yet, the Tom Baker version was the movie of the week one Sunday night and I did not watch any more after the first scene, which in retrospect probably did not introduce anything scarier than Dr Mortimer's cane. Perhaps that was scary enough...
Categories: Vladimir's Top 20 Mysteries