The first Holmes story, the first meeting of Watson and Holmes, the first characterizations of that eccentric detective. And a mysterious murder for SThe first Holmes story, the first meeting of Watson and Holmes, the first characterizations of that eccentric detective. And a mysterious murder for Sherlock Holmes to investigate. How did a dead man arrive in the empty house? Why is there blood everywhere, when the dead man is apparently unwounded? What's that bloody writing on the wall about?
As Holmes capers go, the story is unremarkable in the Holmes canon. This is Doyle's first essay approaching Holmes, and he hasn't quite found the distinctive formula. Too many clues Holmes discovers, Doyle fails to relate to the reader, leaving the ultimate train of logic obscure without insights Holmes only relates in the aftermath. Also, at the halfway point in the novel there's a strange digression into 19th-century Mormon society. (A highly inaccurate account, according to the preface of the edition I read, Doyle having depended upon erroneous news accounts, in addition to the parts that are obvious fiction.) The Mormon side trip is ultimately topical, but a better novel would have segued more smoothly, as Part II first appears to be almost an entirely different story. (The first time I read it, in a different collection, the abrupt storyline change mightily confused me.) Ultimately, however, Holmes characteristically clears up the mystery to the reader's satisfaction.
But really, this novel is best appreciated for its characterizations of the now-familiar Watson and Holmes. When Holmes professes to not care whether the earth revolves around the sun or vice versa (and of the answer, "I shall do my best to forget it"), when we see Watson's grading Holmes's knowledge ("Botany — Variable. Well up in belladonna, opium, and poisons generally. Knows nothing of practical gardening."), when we see the first glimmerings of Holmes's philosophy — this is what makes the story worth reading.
I could rate this either three stars (for an imperfect story) or four stars (for the fresh impressions of Holmes). Ultimately, the story's deficits sway me to three stars....more
Stephen Leeds isn't insane, precisely. Oh, sure, he does hear and see friends that no one else sees, and he lives in a mansion that houses them all. BStephen Leeds isn't insane, precisely. Oh, sure, he does hear and see friends that no one else sees, and he lives in a mansion that houses them all. But he's aware they're not real, and he uses them as a detective to help his subconscious work through cases. This particular case concerns a rather interesting camera the can take pictures of...well, really you should read and find out yourself.
Legion is a short, fast-paced, dialogue-heavy little mystery. It's shorter than Sanderson's usual stories, but it works pretty well within those constraints. Sanderson's definitely getting better at writing shorter stories; the last such one I read (Infinity Blade: Awakening) was okay as a story, but the pacing felt somewhat off for its length. This story seems to get it more right, including just the right amounts of back story, setup, action, and resolution -- and a hint of deeper ideas to keep you thinking. (It probably doesn't hurt that Sanderson's writing on a blank slate, rather than being locked into a setting designed by someone else [and not even for a written story, either!].) There's still somewhat of a feel of it being a longer story compressed into short-story format, but it's a definite improvement. Here's hoping Sanderson gets more practice! (And, perhaps follows up on the obvious dangling threads of the story, at some point.)...more
The great detective Sherlock Holmes has another case to solve. Sir Charles Baskerville has recently died of unexplained causes. Might he have fallen pThe great detective Sherlock Holmes has another case to solve. Sir Charles Baskerville has recently died of unexplained causes. Might he have fallen prey to an old family legend of the Baskervilles being terrorized by a demonic hound? The footprint of a dog was noticed near an unmarked Sir Charles, and a local doctor wonders. And when the heir, Sir Henry Baskerville, returns to England, the plot only grows thicker: mysterious warning notes, spies, and more. How exactly did Sir Charles die? And does Sir Henry have anything to fear?
This novel resides in the Holmesian timeline a couple years prior to Holmes's final encounter with Professor Moriarty. As usual Watson recounts the story. Somewhat unusually, the two are separated for much of the story, with Holmes directing Watson to conduct preliminary investigations without Holmes. Whereas in many of the stories Watson is for all but a brief bit just before the climax and explanations, here Watson is involved in investigation throughout: making for a different sort of feel, contrasting Holmes's judicious approach with Watson's eagerness to immediately run down every possible lead.
The story is much enjoyable, but it happens not to be one of my favorites. Holmes is offscreen too much for my tastes; Watson's far more conventionally-minded investigations aren't as intriguing as Holmes's unorthodox approaches. And to a slightly greater degree than normal, I feel the denouement is less amenable to prediction than a proper Holmes story ought to be. In my opinion the reader simply doesn't receive enough information along the way to make the requisite connections. Nonetheless it's classic Holmes, with the supernaturally-minded Doyle effectively accommodating both that side of his thinking and the methodical side at once. (Contrast with some of his later short stories where the supernatural is the highlight and the factual and criminal take a back seat.) A solid four stars.
A brief note on Kindle editions. Sadly in a world of open source where one might think things would turn out better, you get what you pay for. There may be editions that are free, but they have poor formatting, may lack illustrations, and are generally less readable. A low-cost edition is recommended. I used two different editions when reading: The Hound of the Baskervilles (Finisterra Books, ASIN B0050VA428) and The Hound of the Baskervilles (Top Five Books, ASIN B00ECJ18HO). I purchased the former based largely upon its claim to contain Sidney Paget's illustrations. Unfortunately it doesn't have all the illustrations, only a semirandom scattering of them. When I discovered this, I immediately began searching for another version that did contain all of them, and I stumbled across the Top Five version. I've had good experiences with Top Five for other classics, and my experience was equally good here: it contained all the illustrations and in general offered slightly nicer formatting. (I would have called out a few quotations as block quotes -- for example, the legend of the Hound of the Baskervilles -- but other than that I can think of no complaints.
A last bit of Holmes arcana: the Finisterra version appears to be based upon a very subtly different edition than the Top Five version. This is most clearly visible in the dedication: Doyle over time apparently gave less and less credit to his friend Robinson for providing him with approximately the Hound of the Baskervilles legend. The Finisterra version credits Robinson with relating the legend, while the Top Five version credits him with inspiring the story. There's also one small difference in that an image embedded in the story in the Top Five version is found before the dedication in the Finisterra version. (The original edition, as viewable on archive.org, appears to have placed it before the dedication.) But in general they're the same content excepting the Finisterra's lacking some illustrations....more