When Conan Doyle imagined this scene he was 43, 15 years into his Sherlock cycle, vastly rich and famous. Many consider this book the best of his work; all agree it's the most terrifying.
Trained as a physician, knighted for his medical service in the Boer War, author of an acknowledged military classic and a convert in his later years to spiritualism, Conan Doyle would have been just another accomplished Victorian gentleman.
Many Holmes fans prefer Doyle's complete short stories, but their clockwork logic doesn't match the author's boast about this novel: it's "a real Creeper!" What distinguishes this particular Hound is its fulfillment of Doyle's great debt to Edgar Allan Poe--it's full of ancient woe, low moans, a Grimpen Mire that sucks ponies to Dostoyevskian deaths, and locals digging up Neolithic skulls without next-of-kins' consent. "The longer one stays here the more does the spirit of the moor sink into one's soul," Watson realizes. "Rank reeds and lush, slimy water-plants sent an odour of decay ... while a false step plunged us more than once thigh-deep into the dark, quivering mire, which shook for yards in soft undulations around our feet ... it was as if some malignant hand was tugging us down into those obscene depths." Read on--but, reader, watch your step! --Tim Appelo