illustrated outline of a large, ferocious-looking dog with red eyes

The Hound of the Baskervilles

by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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How is The Hound of the Baskervilles a detective novel?

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The Hound of the Baskervilles is a detective novel because it is centered around the detective Sherlock Holmes, who solves a complicated mystery. It is also filled with interesting suspects and clues and is resolved with a logical explanation.

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Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles is a famous detective novel because it includes many key elements of a detective story. The protagonist of a detective novel is typically the detective himself—in this case, Doyle’s crime-solving genius Sherlock Holmes. These novels also tend to focus on a memorable, mysterious crime. The crime needs to be part of a complex mystery in order to keep the reader engaged and to justify requiring a detective. For instance, in The Hound of the Baskervilles, Holmes investigates a case involving a demonic hound that is believed to be killing off all of the heirs to the Baskerville fortune. This is not an easy case for an average reader to crack, which makes it a great plot for a detective novel.

Detective novels are also filled with multiple suspects and many clues. For instance, consider all of the people who might be involved in the Baskerville case, from the butler to the Stapletons. The manor is also quite an eerie place that might make readers believe in the supernatural hound. Yet it is important to note that a detective story has to have a logical explanation. While the legend of the supernatural hound is engaging, it is the job of a detective like Holmes to use logic to solve the case, so Doyle came up with a reasonable explanation for the events.

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Discuss The Hound of the Baskervilles as a detective novel.

The Hound of the Baskervilles has elements of a detective novel and a gothic novel. As a detective novel, it has the following traits:

  • A plot involving a mysterious murder
  • Many red herrings, or false clues, that contribute to the mystery
  • A detective, Sherlock Holmes, as the central figure, using rational means to solve the mystery.

The gothic elements—the gloomy moor, the "curse" of the Baskerville family, the apparently supernatural hound of the title—provide a backdrop against which Holmes can exercise his famous powers of deduction. The story follows the usual Holmes format, in which a client appears at Baker Street with a problem that piques Holmes's curiosity, but departs from the usual pattern in that Watson is apparently dispatched alone to investigate. In fact, for several chapters, Holmes does not appear at all.

Doyle's narrative twist pays dividends when it is revealed that Holmes secretly traveled to Scotland to avoid tipping off the murderer. The novel derives much of its suspense from this sort of subterfuge, in which nothing is what it seems, and the task of the reader (and Holmes) is to recognize clues and deduce larger purposes from them.

It is also characteristic of detective fiction that there is a logical explanation for the supernatural hound. Holmes's unraveling of the mystery reveals the hellhound to be simply a large dog in phosphorescent paint, and the motivation for the murders simple greed.

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