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The Hound of the Baskervilles

by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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What were the suspects' motives in The Hound of the Baskervilles?

Quick answer:

1. Laura Lyons - wanted to obtain a divorce from her husband 2. Beryl Stapleton - was under the influence of her husband, Jack 3.

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If we are referring to the suspects in Sir Charles Baskerville's murder, there is also another suspect: Laura Lyons.

In the story, Laura is estranged from her husband. For his part, Jack Stapleton played on Laura's sympathies because of the nature of her relationship to Sir Charles Baskerville. Stapleton's goal, of course, was to manipulate Laura into helping him oust Sir Charles.

For her part, Laura imagined that Jack would make her his wife after she obtained a divorce. So she consented to asking Sir Charles for a meeting. As part of his plan, Jack managed to convince Laura that the elderly gentleman would help with the expenses of her divorce. However, at the last minute, he prevented Laura from actually meeting with Sir Charles.

So, Laura unwittingly played a part in Sir Charles's death. After hearing her story, Holmes rightly speculates that Laura was merely Jack's tool.

Another suspect in Sir Charles's death is Beryl Stapleton. As the story progresses, we discover that Beryl is actually Jack's wife. (Recall that Jack had originally introduced Beryl as his sister.) Beryl, too, seems to have been Jack's victim. She did not participate in Sir Charles's death. In fact, every action she performed on Jack's behalf was due to her inherent fear of him.

So, although these two women were originally suspects, further investigations by Holmes showed them to be otherwise. In reality, both Beryl Stapleton and Laura Lyons were themselves Jack's victims. The only conceivable motives both women may have had in helping Jack were personal preservation and, in Laura's case, love.

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The Barrymores are the main household staff at Baskerville Hall. Their ambiguous answers to detectives as well as their close relationship with a murderous convict make them suspects. The motive would have been to inherit the Baskerville estate in the event no one else came forward as a successful claimant.

Jack Stapleton, an ostensibly mild-mannered entomologist, turns out to have been the son of Sir Roger Baskerville. Sir Roger was Sir Charles's younger brother who fled to South America in disgrace and allegedly died without an heir.

The truth is Sir Roger Baskerville had married and produced a son. This son, after expropriating government money from Costa Rica, moved to England under an assumed name. After a failed school venture, he assumed yet another name, Jack Stapleton, and set out to acquire the Baskerville estate through the murder of Sir Charles and Sir Henry. His motive was financial gain.

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Several suspects are considered in the case being investigated by Mr. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson. Their prime suspect is Mr. Stapleton, who is the estranged nephew of the late Sir Charles. He owns a very large dog, who would be capable of leaving the sort of large footprints found near Sir Charles' body. Mr. Stapleton, though having grown up distant from his family, would be next in line to inherit his family's fortune in the case of the death of his uncle (Sir Charles) and cousin (Sir Henry.) 

There are also Mr. and Mrs. Barrymore, who work as servants in the Baskerville home. They would essentially inherit the estate as its caretakers if Sir Henry were to die and no heir came forth to claim the fortune. They act rather strangely in the story, which brings us to our next suspect. Mrs. Barrymore's younger brother, Selden, is the escaped Notting Hill Murderer. He would not really have much motive in killing the Baskervilles beyond satisfaction of a morbid desire for murder, and perhaps some theft of valuable goods.

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