Published in serial form starting in August, 1901, The Hound of the Baskervilles is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s only novella involving the master detective and considered one of his best works. In typical Doyle style, Holmes and Watson receive a visitor early one morning. Dr. James Mortimer has something unusual for Sherlock Holmes to examine. It is a manuscript, dated 1742 (150 years earlier) which details the ‘Curse of the Baskervilles’. Hugo Baskerville described as a godless and vile man, lusts after the daughter of a local yeoman. She wants nothing to do with him so he and his wicked companions kidnap her, spiriting the lass to Baskerville Hall. Terrified of their intent, she escapes the manor and sets across the foggy moor. Hugo, upon discovering she has fled, pursues her. His mates follow, only to discover she has perished from fear and exhaustion. But it’s the sight just beyond her body that really terrifies them. A huge hound, black as night, rips at Hugo’s throat. With his death the avenging hound legend was born.
Holmes is not much interested. He revels in facts, not myth and legend, but Dr. Mortimer manages to catch his attention by revealing that just recently the latest heir to the Baskerville fortune, Sir Charles Baskerville, has died an unusual death after going for a walk. Dr. Mortimer himself found the body at the edge of the property, apparently struck down by acute fear. Face down; his arms outstretched as if he was clawing at the ground, footprints mar the nearby path. An interested Holmes asks if the prints were of a man or woman.
“Mr. Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound!”
Now that Mortimer has gotten Holmes’ attention, the famous detective makes it is mission to protect the last heir to the Baskerville fortune, a young American by the name of Henry Baskerville. Holmes and Watson make Henry’s acquaintance and the detective agrees to protect him, but unfortunately he is wrapping up another case. He therefore sends Watson as bodyguard and instructs his cohort to write him everyday to update him on anything peculiar that happens.
Watson and Sir Henry arrive at Baskerville Hall which is cared for by the Barrymore’s, the manor’s butler and housekeeper. They are a somber pair and immediately prick Watson’s interest. There is also the question of the neighbors; the butterfly-chasing Stapleton and his lovely sister, who warns Henry off the moor. Her suggestion only serves to increase Sir Henry’s romantic interest in her. Watson then relates alarming news to Holmes in a letter: that a convict has escaped to the moors. He is the Notting Hill Murderer, and Watson fears he may be behind the sinister letter received by Sir Henry upon his arrival in London and maybe even the howling dog everyone hears during moonless nights. To further complicate matters, strange lights and a strange disheveled man are seen on the moor.
Watson urges Holmes to come to Baskerville Hall right away, but the detective declines.
An agitated Watson anxiety increases when he spots the butler, Barrymore, signaling with a candle from one of the second story window. It turns out that Mrs. Barrymore’s brother is the escaped convict and they have been supplying him with food in order to survive on the rugged moors. Unbeknownst to Watson, the Barrymore’s have given him an old jacket of Sir Henry’s which will prove to be the poor convict’s demise.
Watson discovers that the strange man staying on the moor is none other than Holmes who has been keeping an eye on the whole situation while not letting anyone know he is there. Watson is furious and feels betrayed, but Holmes manages to soothe him. He instructs Watson to keep a close eye on Sir Henry. Later, while upon a walk, they hear a terrible commotion and discover a prostrate man upon the moors. It is the convict, wearing Sir Henry’s coat. Stapleton, who has discovered the body, seems relieved that it is only the convict, though Holmes seems suspicious.
Later, Holmes discovers a painting in Baskerville hall that proves his theory that someone is trying to kill Sir Henry to gain the estate. He and Watson rush to Stapleton’s house and discover that Miss Stapleton has been tied up by her brother because she wanted to warn Sir Henry. In a large wooden shed, they discover that a savage dog has been kept there. They rush to the aide of Sir Henry, who foolhardily is walking alone upon the moor. The hound is set upon him and Henry Baskerville runs straight for Grimpen Mire. Holmes manages to shoot the beast and Stapleton, the killer, escapes but is later sucked down into the mire.
Later Holmes explains that Stapleton was actually a relative of Sir Henry, and with him dead would inherit the estate. Miss Stapleton was in actuality Stapleton’s wife, not sister, and a saddened Sir Henry laments losing a love, but Holmes reminds him that he kept his life. By using the legend of the Hound, Stapleton managed to frighten Sir Charles Baskerville to death since he had a weak heart and was only one murder away from gaining what he felt was his rightful inheritance. Luckily, Sherlock Holmes thwarted his plan. Content with another case solved, he settles upon a play and dinner with Watson, alert and ready for his next case.