In our travels we found an English version of Sherlock Holmes’ great mythic mystery The Hound of the Baskervilles. I’d always wanted to read it after being introduced to it by Mr Peterson in Year 6. I was in Mrs Short’s class but for some reason they decided to swap for an hour each week and Mr P took us through one of Holmes’ finest finds. Mr P’s deep voice boomed from his heavy set figure with great authority as his reciting brought our story to life. Of course when he said ‘Colin, continue where I left off’ it generally lost any Victorian prestige.
The new book was a steal for three euros and I was intending to read it myself but when I cracked open the spine as Liz was preparing dinner, she said, ‘read to me’. My voice dropped to the deepest tone I could muster – my voice probably closer to whiney, questioning Watson than that of the assured Holmes but I read anyway.
It’s a classic tale, considered one of Arthur Conan Boyle’s best. The book plunges us into the mystery almost instantly with a knock on the door of Holmes’ Baker Street batch pad. The boys are interrupted of their game of tiddly-winks or something by a visit from a doctor who hopes his case will interest the two dicks.
It is that of the Hound of the Baskervilles, regarding a hideous hell-pooch that throughout history has haunted members of a particularly well-to-do family (the Baskervilles), should they venture onto the mire that backs onto their mansion. And you see, dear reader, Lord Baskerville has died, and all signs suggested at the mercy of the legendary mutt.
After I read the first chapter I handed the book over to Liz and she read a chapter and so it went, as we read to each other over cooking dinners each night. It felt weird, kinda childish but it was very relaxing for the listener and for the reader makes you pay attention to how you read, less skimming, more digestion. We kinda took on the voices but not quite like Stephen Fry reading the Harry Potter books. Oddly enough in our travels we’ve met other couples who have read to each other – confirming we weren’t as weird as we thought (though I’d often ask Liz to read in a school uniform and sit cross-legged, she’d ask me to don tweed and read through a magnifying glass).
Of course Holmes doesn’t just call the RSPCA, but sends his best man Watson to sniff out the mystery of the dog on this boggy and dangerous old marsh as the new young heir to the estate, a distant cousin arrives from Canada.
Numerous residents and neighbours of the Grimpen Mire arise as suspects but Holmes, via Watson’s letters to Baker Street uses his powers of deduction to build the likeliest of hypotheses. In Scooby Doo manner, you don’t find out the truth until Holmes wants you to, after the villain is unmasked (metaphorically), but not without some vicious hell hound action first.
The book is thin and doesn’t take long to knock over. Plus you’re sharing it with someone, just like watching a TV series so you can discuss whodunit between sessions. While it’s got to be the right book, having a reading partner is silly but fun. I recommend it.