Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Teen Review: Classic Mystery

A review by M.G. Lewis, 9th grade

If you’re looking to read a classic tale full of mystery, intellect, and adventure, then you might want to embark upon a fictitious mystery novel entitled The Hound of the Baskervilles, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. This is one of Conan Doyle’s several Sherlock Holmes stories, but one of his few Sherlock Holmes novels.Seeing as it was written in the nineteenth century, one does not have to worry about coming across rude language; however, the book can be a difficult read for someone used to modern fiction, due to the formal style in which it is written. As a ninth grader, I would put The Hound of the Baskervilles at a 10-12 grade reading level. (However, this does not mean that I don’t encourage younger readers to attempt it, as I did. The result may be positive.) This 128-page novel is technically part of the Sherlock Holmes series; however, one does not have to have read previous Sherlock Holmes short stories or novels to understand or enjoy the plot line in The Hound of the Baskervilles. One will find little, if any, continuity in Conan Doyle books.

In this story, Dr. Mortimer approaches famous detective Sherlock Holmes and his right-hand man, Dr. John H. Watson (from whose first-person perspective the story is told) about an old wives' tale concerning the Baskerville family, and a cursed demon-hound that supposedly haunts the Baskerville Manor. This is because his friend, Sir Henry Baskerville, has just inherited the mansion, and Mortimer is concerned for his friend’s safety upon moving in. Holmes sends Watson to investigate the situation at the manor, and the doctor and detective are confronted with several dramas, mysteries, and characters that will shock, haunt, amuse, and surprise the reader. The story is full of plot twists that will keep the reader in his/her seat until the very end.

As I mentioned before, this book was written in the nineteenth century, and therefore is told quite formally; but I found that despite this, I was able to relate to Watson on an awkward, humorous level. I also found this formal style of writing to dissolve as the story grew more intense. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves a good story, or just likes adventure. It is definitely a 5/5 classic read.

Editor's note: We have several editions of this book at the library, although we do not have the first edition, but that cover art (top) is my favorite of all of them. This story has also been made into a movie several times, both for theatrical release and for television; here is a beautiful hand-lettered design of the opening credit for Darryl F. Zanuck's version. (They used to hand letter the titles on glass, using a paintbrush and paint, and then put the scenes behind the glass and shoot through.)

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