“The Hound of the Baskervilles,” published in 1902 by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is one of the most celebrated mysteries in the Sherlock Holmes series. Set against the bleak and atmospheric backdrop of the English moorlands, the novel weaves a chilling tale of an ancient family curse and a spectral hound that haunts the Baskerville lineage. At the heart of the story are the brilliant detective Sherlock Holmes and his faithful companion Dr. John Watson, who are called upon to unravel the mystery surrounding the death of Sir Charles Baskerville and protect his heir, Sir Henry Baskerville, from a similar fate.

Comprehensive Plot Summary

On a foggy London morning, Dr. John Watson stands by the hearth-rug of 221B Baker Street, examining a curious walking stick left by a visitor. Sherlock Holmes, ever perceptive, deduces that it belongs to Dr. James Mortimer, a country doctor. Dr. Mortimer soon arrives, bringing with him a tale of terror from the moors of Devonshire. He shares an old manuscript that recounts the legend of the Baskerville curse, dating back to Hugo Baskerville, a debauched ancestor who was hunted to death by a monstrous hound. This spectral beast is believed to have plagued the Baskerville family ever since, casting a shadow over their lives.

Dr. Mortimer reveals that his friend, Sir Charles Baskerville, recently died under mysterious circumstances. Sir Charles was found dead on the grounds of Baskerville Hall, with an expression of abject terror on his face and the footprints of a giant hound nearby. Concerned for the safety of Sir Charles’s heir, Sir Henry Baskerville, who is arriving from Canada, Dr. Mortimer seeks Holmes’s help to prevent another tragedy.

Intrigued by the case but unable to leave London immediately, Holmes sends Watson to accompany Sir Henry to Baskerville Hall. Watson’s task is to protect Sir Henry and report any unusual occurrences. Upon meeting Sir Henry, Watson and Holmes discover that he has already received an anonymous warning to stay away from the moor. Despite the ominous message, Sir Henry is determined to take up residence at his ancestral home.

At Baskerville Hall, Watson meets the Barrymores, the butler and his wife, whose behavior is peculiar and secretive. The forbidding moor, vast and treacherous, adds to the sense of foreboding. Watson also encounters Mr. Stapleton, a naturalist with an unsettling demeanor, and his beautiful but distressed sister, Beryl, who mysteriously warns Watson to send Sir Henry away.

One night, Watson observes Barrymore signaling someone on the moor. He and Sir Henry follow Barrymore and discover that he is aiding Selden, an escaped convict and Mrs. Barrymore’s brother. Barrymore confesses that Sir Charles was supposed to meet a woman on the night of his death, but her identity remains unknown.

Watson learns from a local, Mr. Frankland, that a mysterious man is living in a stone hut on the moor. Investigating, Watson finds it is Holmes, who has been secretly conducting his own inquiries. Holmes reveals that the true villain is Stapleton, who is actually a Baskerville and has orchestrated the deaths to claim the family fortune for himself. Stapleton has been using a fierce hound, trained to kill and disguised with phosphorus to appear spectral, to terrorize the Baskervilles.

Holmes, Watson, and Inspector Lestrade set a trap for Stapleton. They use Sir Henry as bait, who bravely walks across the moor at night. The hound attacks, but Holmes and Watson shoot it, revealing it to be a real, albeit ferocious, dog covered in phosphorus. Stapleton, realizing his plot has failed, flees into the Grimpen Mire, where he presumably meets his death.

As Holmes explains, Stapleton had meticulously planned his scheme. He used his wife, Beryl, posing as his sister, to gain Sir Henry’s trust and keep him close. Stapleton’s lair is uncovered, revealing evidence of his plot, including the stolen boot used to give the hound Sir Henry’s scent. The curse of the Baskervilles is lifted with Stapleton’s demise, and Sir Henry is safe to continue his family legacy.

With the mystery resolved, Holmes and Watson return to London, reflecting on one of their most eerie and dangerous cases. The rational triumphs over the supernatural, as the spectral hound is revealed to be a mere instrument of human greed and malice. Sir Henry, though shaken, emerges determined to restore Baskerville Hall to its former glory, free from the shadow of the curse.

On a foggy London morning, Dr. John Watson stands upon the hearth-rug of 221B Baker Street, examining a curious walking stick left by a visitor. Sherlock Holmes, ever perceptive, deduces that it belongs to Dr. James Mortimer, a country doctor. Dr. Mortimer soon arrives, bringing with him a tale of terror from the moors of Devonshire. He shares an old manuscript that recounts the legend of the Baskerville curse, dating back to Hugo Baskerville, a debauched ancestor who was hunted to death by a monstrous hound. This spectral beast is believed to have plagued the Baskerville family ever since, casting a shadow over their lives.

Dr. Mortimer reveals that his friend, Sir Charles Baskerville, recently died under mysterious circumstances. Sir Charles was found dead on the grounds of Baskerville Hall, with an expression of abject terror on his face and the footprints of a giant hound nearby. Concerned for the safety of Sir Charles’s heir, Sir Henry Baskerville, who is arriving from Canada, Dr. Mortimer seeks Holmes’s help to prevent another tragedy.

Intrigued by the case but unable to leave London immediately, Holmes sends Watson to accompany Sir Henry to Baskerville Hall. Watson’s task is to protect Sir Henry and report any unusual occurrences. Upon meeting Sir Henry, Watson and Holmes discover that he has already received an anonymous warning to stay away from the moor. Despite the ominous message, Sir Henry is determined to take up residence at his ancestral home.

At Baskerville Hall, Watson meets the Barrymores, the butler and his wife, whose behavior is peculiar and secretive. The forbidding moor, vast and treacherous, adds to the sense of foreboding. Watson also encounters Mr. Stapleton, a naturalist with an unsettling demeanor, and his beautiful but distressed sister, Beryl, who mysteriously warns Watson to send Sir Henry away.

One night, Watson observes Barrymore signaling someone on the moor. He and Sir Henry follow Barrymore and discover that he is aiding Selden, an escaped convict and Mrs. Barrymore’s brother. Barrymore confesses that Sir Charles was supposed to meet a woman on the night of his death, but her identity remains unknown.

Watson learns from a local, Mr. Frankland, that a mysterious man is living in a stone hut on the moor. Investigating, Watson finds it is Holmes, who has been secretly conducting his own inquiries. Holmes reveals that the true villain is Stapleton, who is actually a Baskerville and has orchestrated the deaths to claim the family fortune for himself. Stapleton has been using a fierce hound, trained to kill and disguised with phosphorus to appear spectral, to terrorize the Baskervilles.

Holmes, Watson, and Inspector Lestrade set a trap for Stapleton. They use Sir Henry as bait, who bravely walks across the moor at night. The hound attacks, but Holmes and Watson shoot it, revealing it to be a real, albeit ferocious, dog covered in phosphorus. Stapleton, realizing his plot has failed, flees into the Grimpen Mire, where he presumably meets his death.

As Holmes explains, Stapleton had meticulously planned his scheme. He used his wife, Beryl, posing as his sister, to gain Sir Henry’s trust and keep him close. Stapleton’s lair is uncovered, revealing evidence of his plot, including the stolen boot used to give the hound Sir Henry’s scent. The curse of the Baskervilles is lifted with Stapleton’s demise, and Sir Henry is safe to continue his family legacy.

With the mystery resolved, Holmes and Watson return to London, reflecting on one of their most eerie and dangerous cases. The rational triumphs over the supernatural, as the spectral hound is revealed to be a mere instrument of human greed and malice. Sir Henry, though shaken, emerges determined to restore Baskerville Hall to its former glory, free from the shadow of the curse.

Main Characters

  • Sherlock Holmes: The brilliant detective known for his keen observation, deductive reasoning, and scientific approach to solving mysteries. He is logical, astute, and methodical, unraveling the mystery with precision.

  • Dr. John Watson: Holmes’s loyal friend and chronicler, who serves as the story’s narrator. He is brave, compassionate, and determined, providing support to Holmes and protection to Sir Henry.

  • Sir Henry Baskerville: The last remaining heir of the Baskerville family. Courageous and determined, Sir Henry faces the threat of the hound with resilience.

  • Dr. James Mortimer: A friend of Sir Charles and the one who brings the case to Holmes. He is a man of science, torn between his rational beliefs and the eerie events surrounding the Baskerville curse.

  • Jack Stapleton: The antagonist, a naturalist, and secret Baskerville heir. Charming but ruthless, he orchestrates the plot to eliminate his relatives and claim the Baskerville fortune.

  • Beryl Stapleton: Jack Stapleton’s supposed sister, who is actually his wife. She is sympathetic to Sir Henry and tries to warn him of the danger posed by Stapleton.

  • Barrymore and Mrs. Barrymore: The butler and housekeeper of Baskerville Hall. Loyal but secretive, they harbor their fugitive relative, Selden, on the moor.

Themes and Motifs

  • Rationality vs. Superstition: The novel contrasts Holmes’s logical, scientific approach to solving the mystery with the superstitious fears surrounding the Baskerville curse.

  • Nature and the Supernatural: The eerie moorland setting, with its natural dangers and ominous atmosphere, plays a crucial role in creating a sense of supernatural dread.

  • Family and Inheritance: The Baskerville curse and the inheritance of the estate drive the plot, highlighting themes of legacy, family honor, and the burdens of the past.

  • Good vs. Evil: The battle between Holmes and Stapleton represents the broader struggle between good and evil, with Holmes embodying reason and justice, and Stapleton representing greed and malice.

Writing Style and Tone

Arthur Conan Doyle’s writing style in “The Hound of the Baskervilles” is marked by its clarity, attention to detail, and the use of suspense. Doyle masterfully creates an atmosphere of tension and mystery through vivid descriptions of the moor and its surroundings, as well as through the gradual unraveling of clues.

The tone of the novel oscillates between the rational, as embodied by Holmes’s scientific method, and the eerie, influenced by the gothic elements of the Baskerville legend. The narrative, delivered through Watson’s perspective, combines a straightforward recounting of events with rich, atmospheric descriptions, engaging readers and maintaining a sense of suspense and intrigue throughout the story.

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Categories: Book Summary