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Book Club Kits: The Hound of the Baskervilles

Alamance County Public Libraries offer Book Club Kits for check out to area book clubs. Each kit contains 10 copies of a book and a reading guide.

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Book Summary

'Mr. Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound'. The death, quite suddenly, of Sir Charles Baskerville in mysterious circumstances is the trigger for one of the most extraordinary cases ever to challenge the brilliant analytical mind of Sherlock Holmes. As rumours of a legendary hound said to haunt the Baskerville family circulate, Holmes and Watson are asked to ensure the protection of Sir Charles' only heir, Sir Henry - who has travelled all the way from America to reside at Baskerville Hall in Devon. And it is there, in an isolated mansion surrounded by mile after mile of wild moor, that Holmes and Watson come face to face with a terrifying evil that reaches out from centuries past...

Discussion Questions

  • Sherlock Holmes is one of the few fictional characters so internationally famous that even before readers encounter the Holmes stories, they are already familiar with the great detective. Now that you have read The Hound of the Baskervilles and seen the film, how would you answer the question, "Who is Holmes?" What scenes or details in Hound do you think illustrate his character especially well? To what extent do you think the character described in the story lives up to his myth?

  • The Hound of the Baskervilles is marked by the constant juxtaposition of the rational and scientific with the irrational and supernatural. How can you see this tension in the novel?  Which of the two forces -- science or the supernatural -- triumphs at the end? How is this made clear? Why might this tension have been especially riveting for a Victorian audience?

  • The moors in The Hound of the Baskervilles are so central to the plot that they almost act as an extra character. If you were to describe them the way you would describe a human character, what would you say about them? Which person in the story do they most resemble? How?

  • Historians of the detective novel recognize the pairing of the brilliant Holmes with a very ordinary partner -- Watson -- as one of the Arthur Conan Doyle's key contributions to the genre. Why do you think their pairing works so well? How would Hound be different if Watson were taken out of the tale? Holmes remarks in another novel that Watson "sees but does not observe." How does that make him a useful narrator for a detective story?

  • In a well-crafted detective story, nothing is wasted; each scene adds suspense and clues to the hunt for "whodunnit." How tightly written is Hound in this sense? What particular clues, details, descriptions or lines of dialogue do you think worked particularly well to build suspense? Which do you consider the climactic scene? Why?

  • The essential premise of The Hound of the Baskervilles is classic, a story line that can be found in countless other works of fiction: Someone new comes to stay in an isolated place about which legends and mysteries are associated. This person's life and/or sanity is threatened by increasingly frightening events until a perpetrator is caught. Brainstorm a list of books, films, television shows, legends, myths, ghost stories or other stories that share this same basic setup. Why do you think it is such an enduring premise for a story?

  • Why do you think people like to read mystery and detective stories? Why are we so fascinated with crime -- especially murder? Does the fact that most murder mysteries have a predictable structure make them more or less pleasurable for you to read? Why? How are reading murder mysteries or detective fiction different from reading "serious literature"?