The Hound of the Baskervilles

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
The Hound of the Baskervilles Book Poster Image
Popular with kids
Holmes in top form vs. spectral hound on the moor.

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 10 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

This is arguably the best introduction to detective fiction kids can get. The quality of writing and plot construction deserve attention in themselves, but equally noteworthy are the characters, settings and plot devices that have become mainstays of the genre ever since: from Holmes and his faithful, obtuse, long-suffering Watson to the lonely house on the windswept moor, the fresh-faced heir from foreign parts, the mysterious family curse. It is also a good introduction to the views and mores of the later Victorian era.

Positive Messages

While Doyle wrote his stories as entertainment, both he and his protagonist had a fairly rigorous moral compass, along with some sense of realism.  Hence, while Holmes is ultimately able to foil the adversary who's seeking to destroy the innocent Sir Henry, the path is neither smooth nor free of consequences, even to Sir Henry himself.

Positive Role Models

Holmes himself, not merely brilliant but also ingenious and diligent in his client's service and a true friend to Watson, has become an icon through the years but appears especially well here. Likewise Watson, tenaciously loyal both to Holmes and to his appointed task. Sir Henry Baskerville, newly arrived from North America to the strange, accursed family estates, shows courage and a generous spirit, particularly in dealing with his longtime family retainers the Barrymores, who turn out to have a family secret of their own and repay him with their own loyalty.


Relatively little violence happens in real time, but its anticipation and aftermath figure prominently in the story. The Baskerville ancestor who brought about the curse was ostensibly mauled to death by a giant dog; now another Baskerville has died, apparently of fright, with giant paw prints seen in the vicinity of the body. Howls are heard on the moor at night, the new heir receives dire warnings to stay away. Meanwhile, an escaped murderer is loose on the moor, which also contains numerous patches of deadly quicksand that dooms unwary local ponies. One man is killed trying to escape the hound, another has a near escape, and the hound himself is killed by Holmes, et al.


Besides being a murderer, the villain is both a wife-beater and a cad, as we learn by the end of the story that he's been making false promises of marriage to a woman in the district to advance his plans. However, while the disapproval of Doyle, Holmes, and Watson is evident, salacious details are not.


The word "hell" comes up periodically, always with reference to the hound's origins.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The alcoholic carousing of Sir Hugo Baskerville and his friends is criticized for its excess; Dr. Watson, Holmes, and their peers consume wine in moderation.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this is classic Holmes and Watson, and also free of some of the more problematical content that crops up elsewhere in the Sherlock canon (e.g. the famous 7 percent solution of cocaine). Probably more cerebral and less spooky than its many movie treatments, it's still effective at evoking an atmosphere of foreboding, which may be an issue for more sensitive kids. This edition also includes the original illustrations that accompanied the story when it was first serialized in The Strand, a nice atmospheric period detail.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byLiteratureHome October 26, 2018

A Solid Introduction to a Cultural Icon

As one of the four full-length Sherlock Holmes novels, The Hound of the Baskervilles is a great introduction to Sherlock Holmes for upper elementary and middle... Continue reading
Parent of a 10-year-old Written byJanelle212 December 18, 2020

13 y/o daughter not interested

The content is appropriate for 10 and up. I’m very conservative in general. The language is old, the imagery is good, the mystery was kind of boring. My 13 year... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old September 11, 2016

The Best Sherlock Holmes Mystery Ever Written

I read this book at the age of nine, and it didn't disturb me as much as I was warned it would. It's relatively mild when it comes to swearwords (the... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byMs. Marvelous January 16, 2021

What's the story?

Sir Henry Baskerville, a young man recently arrived from North America to take possession of the estate of his uncle, who's died suddenly, seeks the counsel and protection of Sherlock Holmes. The wealthy Sir Charles apparently died fleeing in terror from an unknown enemy; meanwhile, Sir Henry himself is receiving mysterious threats, perhaps related to a Baskerville family curse involving an innocent maiden, a reprobate ancestor, and a vengeful hound. Holmes, busy with other affairs, sends the faithful Dr. Watson to the country to keep watch over Sir Henry and send back reports, which are soon flowing with accounts of the gloomy moor and surroundings. Among the cast: Dr. Mortimer, the eccentric country practitioner; the enigmatic Barrymores, who have has been servants to the Baskervilles for generations; Stapleton and his ubiquitous butterfly net, not to mention his sister, who quickly becomes Sir Henry's romantic interest. Meanwhile a murderer has escaped from the nearby prison and is loose on the moor, spine-chilling howls are heard at night by sober men, and Watson and Sir Henry are more nervous than they care to admit. Surprise revelations and terrifying moments ensue before Holmes brings things to a generally safe conclusion.

Is it any good?

There's a pretty good case to be made that this is Holmes at his finest; in any case, it's a great introduction to the master detective and his faithful chronicler. The plot moves along at a good pace, the quality of the writing is excellent (even if Watson and Doyle are a bit wordy by today's standards), and none of the potential pitfalls that crop up elsewhere in the canon and might require parental intervention, from Mormon-bashing to drug use, is in evidence here. Holmes and Watson are well portrayed and have some classic, character-defining interactions.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about detectives and how they solve problems. How did Sherlock Holmes figure out the true nature of the threat to Sir Henry and the identity of the villain?

  • What do you think about the idea of a family curse? Do you think they're real? How might the idea of a family curse be used to manipulate people in ways other than in this story?

  • Do you think Holmes and Watson might have done a better job of protecting Sir Henry? How?

  • One of the great scenes in this story involves Holmes looking at the portraits of Baskerville ancestors in the hallway of the mansion and seeing their resemblance to his contemporaries. What stories come to mind when you look at photos of your ancestor? What living family members do they remind you of?

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