The Hound of the Baskervilles (MP3)
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It is strange to consider that, although The Hound of the Baskervilles is Conan Doyle's most popular novel, his hero is absent for much of the time. Notice how he sets up an atmosphere of supernatural horror right from the start through Dr Mortimer's reading of the ancient curse, and how he then presents as assortment of bizarre clues – in particular, the riddle of the missing boots – which Holmes will have to unravel. As the story progresses, red herrings are thrown up to put Holmes and Watson – and the listener – off the scent, so that interest is sustained throughout. 1. SUPERSTITION OR MURDER. Dr James Mortimer. Trustee of the late Sir Charles Baskerville's will, visits Holmes, concerned that Sir Charles may have been a victim of the curse of the Baskervilles – a huge hound that is said to haunt the family. Fearing, too, that Sir Henry, the last remaining Baskerville, might also be in danger, he relates to Holmes the story of the curse from a manuscript. Intrigued, Holmes asks Mortimer to return the next day with Sir Henry. 2. THE RIDDLE OF THE BOOT. At his meeting with Holmes and Watson, Sir Henry has several baffling reports: he has received a note made up of pasted words warning him to avoid the moor, and also reports the loss of a new boot from his hotel room. Although Holmes deduces that the words have been taken from the times, he is unable to solve the riddle of the boot. Later, Holmes and Watson observe Sir Henry being followed by a black-bearded man in a handsome cab, who quickly makes off. When they later meet Sir Henry, the latter is furious because another boot has disappeared - this time an old black one. 3. DEPARTURE FOR DEVON. Holmes and Watson lunch with Sir Henry and Dr Mortimer, who identifies the black-bearded stranger as Mr Barrymore, a servant at the hall. Holmes sends Watson to Devon with Sir Henry, instructing him to report back regularly. Sir Henry now finds his new boot, although the old one is still missing. Arriving in Devon, Watson and Sir Henry are told that there is a dangerous escaped convict called Selden loose on the moor. When they reach the hall, they are met by the two servants, Mr and Mrs. Barrymore. That night, Watson hears the sound of a woman weeping. 4. STRANGE ENCOUNERS. Watson and Sir Henry notice that Mrs Barrymore had been crying. On a walk, Mortimer and Watson meet an eccentric called Stapleton, who lives locally with his sister. They are invited back to his house, where his sister, mistaking Watson for Sir Henry, warns him to return to London. Watson reports back to Holmes about the Stapleton's, Mr Frankland (a neighbour) and the Barrymores' strange behaviour. 5. A KINDNESS REPAID. Watson discovers that the Barrymores have been helping the convict Selden, who is Mrs Barrymore's brother. Sir Henry and Watson eventually agree to let the Barrymores help Selden escape to South Africa. Thankful for this, Barrymore tells him that, on the eve of his death, Sir Charles met a woman with the initials L. L. - who had previously sent him a letter. She is later identified as Laura Lyons, Frankland's daughter. Barrymore mentions that Selden has also seen Watson's mystery man on the tor. 6. THE MAN ON THE TOR. Watson visits Laura Lyons, who reveals nothing except to say she has written to Sir Charles, asking to meet him, but had not done so. Watson and Frankland now track down the man on the tor, who turns out to be none other than Holmes. The latter discloses that Laura Lyons is Stapleton's mistress and that Stapleton's so-called sister is, in fact, his wife. Just as he is identifying Stapleton as the murderer, they hear a scream and run out to find Selden's body dressed in Sir Henry's old clothes, which...