Sherlock Holmes has never really appealed to me. More intellectual than man of action, Holmes just seems to look down his narrow, pointy nose at everyone. Yes he can solve mysteries that no-one else can solve but he knows it, and his ego is as bloated as his detective prowess.
Ian Edginton and I.N.J Culbard haven’t shied away from this egomania – the first chapter of the book details Holmes’ testing of Watson’s deductive powers by analysing the walking stick of a visitor who’s absent-mindedly left it behind. Holmes apparently praises Watson’s efforts, before revealing that the praise is only given because it’s helped Holmes eliminate all Watson’s thoughts from his own line of thinking.
The fact that The Hound of the Baskervilles was Arthur Conan Doyle’s last Holmes story, written essentially for the money after he’d already plunged the detective to his supposed death at the hand of his arch enemy Professor Moriarty, might have something to do with his attitude towards the character. In fact, this is really Watson’s story, since he does the majority of the leg work. That he doesn’t piece the problem together in the end is by the by.
The story has been much televised and filmed, so it’s likely that you already know the plot. It’s set on the moors of south east England, where a curse seems to have befallen one of the moor’s oldest and richest families, the Baskervilles. When an elderly Baskerville apparently falls victim to the curse, which basically involves being scared to death by a supernatural beast thought to be a giant dog, only one remaining Baskerville can be found to take over the family home. But why would he want to, with the curse apparently consuming Baskervilles at a rate of knots? The locals fear for their own livelihoods should the estate become abandoned, since serving the Baskervilles has become something of a local industry. So Holmes is approached to see if he’ll solve the mystery once and for all.
Instead, he sends Watson to chaperone the new master and ensure he doesn’t come to a grisly end at the hands of the cursed hound. Watson is left to investigate the situation in his own way, writing detailed reports back to Holmes in London. As is often the case with detective fiction, set pieces are pumped up in one direction only to help disguise the fact that the reveal is going to occur elsewhere. In this story, Conan Doyle sets up his own sleight of hand, leading the reader in a number of different directions before ultimately revealing what’s going on.
The illustration gives the book a lighter-hearted air – the characters are drawn in a clear-line style that makes the panels look like stills from an animation. There’s no problem with this – Holmes and the people around him are caricatures anyway.
It’s a strong adaptation and is certainly more accessible than most non-literary adaptations because, unlike film and television, you’ve got a bit more time to pore over Holmes’s observations. However, you have to be into the Sherlock Holmes stories to get the most from it, and if you are, we’re not sure how much this adds to the existing cross-media plethora of adaptations that are already in existence.