When Henry Baskerville, the last remaining scion of the family, travels from Canada to England to take up residence in Baskerville Hall after the puzzling violent death of his uncle, Sir Charles, he is immediately greeted with a string of baffling mysteries not the least of which is the legend of an enormous hound residing on the moors in Devon. Dr James Mortimer, family friend to the Baskervilles, engages Holmes and Watson to advise and protect Henry and to resolve the issue of the hound's existence once and for all. Not one to believe in supernatural phantoms such as this spectral hound from hell endowed with "blazing eyes and dripping jaws", Holmes dispatches Watson to scout out the terrain and place the neighbouring residents under the proverbial magnifying glass - Stapleton, the accomplished entomologist and his beautiful sister, Beryl, who attempts to warn off Henry from taking up residence in the hall; Frankland, a crotchety busybody with a telescope and his troubled daughter, Laura Lyons, recovering from an ill-advised marriage; and the Barrymores, long time butler and housekeeper to the Baskerville family, who are clearly carrying a disturbing secret of their own.
True to the well-established paradigm of the Holmes canon, Doyle allows Watson to tell the tale with a deliciously full serving of speculation, theorizing based on "incomplete data", emotion, gentlemanly bravado, flowery Victorian atmosphere, elegant dialogue, and extensive detail on the routine of daily living at the turn of the century such as communicating by telegram and traveling by coach. His development of the bleak, dark, gloomy atmosphere of the moor is masterful:
"Over the green squares of the fields and the low curve of a wood there rose in the distance a grey, melancholy hill, with a strange jagged summit, dim and vague in the distance, like some fantastic landscape in a dream."
An easy one evening read over the comfortable space of a couple of hours, The Hound of the Baskervilles moves swiftly from the traditional cozy opening of Holmes' Baker Street digs to a resounding climax that is packed with more excitement and action than almost any other story in the entire Holmes litany. Two thumbs up and a five star recommendation to readers of all ages!