Few settings evoke an eerier mood than the wild moors of England. Often shrouded in fog, they are speckled with bogs and mires that can suck unsuspecting passersby to their dooms. So, when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle set The Hound of the Baskervilles in the moors of Devonshire, he was making the creepiest of his Sherlock Holmes stories.
The premise of the story revolves around the Baskerville family’s supposed curse. Long ago, Hugo Baskerville chased a young woman across the moor only to encounter his death in the form of a fiendish hound of Hell. Thus began the curse of the Hound of the Baskervilles. Sherlock Holmes enters the tale when the latest Baskerville, Sir Charles, is found on the moor, dead of fright and surrounded by footprints of a massive hound. One of Sir Charles’ friends and the new heir, Sir Henry, hire Sherlock to figure out what really happened on the wild night of his demise. Doyle adds an escaped convict, desperate warnings to stay away from the moor, and mysterious actions by the household staff to create his signature “impossible” mystery that only Holmes can solve.
The text of the graphic novel maintains the feeling of the original story, with background narration by Dr. Watson, Sherlock Holmes’ famous sidekick. The story-telling is done well, with a balanced mix of dialogue and narration that keeps the tale moving. However, the pace of the story progresses a little too rapidly for each twist to become shocking revelation that it is in the original. Still, the writing is accessible without being boring or simple.
The illustrator, Kumar, paints the moor perfectly. The opening scene, Sir Hugo’s wild chase across the moor, is the hook that will fascinate readers with its dark, brooding atmosphere. The big opening splash of scenery continues throughout the story with gorgeous landscapes and backgrounds. If only the facial expressions of the characters balanced the surroundings, but many people look strained. However, the action scenes and wide shots work well to form a solid depiction of the story.
Putting the entire book together, The Hound of the Baskervilles is still a fascinating tale of murder, mystery, and mayhem. The two page trivia section discussing dogs is a strange element, but I could see the tween set appreciating the additional information. The graphic novel would be enjoyable to newcomers who may only know the latest movie or pop culture references to Sherlock Holmes while not displeasing the hardcore fans. That’s elementary, my dear Watson.
The Hound of the Baskervilles
by J.R. Parks
Art by Vinod Kumar