The Curse of the Baskervilles
Welcome to The Hound of the Baskervilles podcast episode (one of two) focused on the science of deduction!
The Hound of the Baskervilles is a turn-of-the-century, Gothic-inspired spine-tingler that includes a spectral hound and a hands-off Sherlock Holmes. This 1902 classic may be Arthur Conan Doyle’s best — and one of the most gripping and suspenseful murder mysteries ever written. Get reading and then listen in!
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All About the Science of Deduction (Podcast Transcript)
Sarah Harrison 0:24
Welcome to Tea, Tonic, and Toxin, a book club and podcast for anyone who wants to explore the best mysteries and thrillers ever written. I’m your host, Sarah Harrison,
Carolyn Daughters 0:36
and I’m your host Carolyn Daughters. Pour yourself a tea, or a gin and tonic
Sarah Harrison 0:42
but not a toxin!
Carolyn Daughters 0:44
and join us on the journey through 19th and 20th century mysteries and thrillers, every one of them a game changer.
Carolyn Daughters 0:59
Sarah, can you believe we’ve been doing this almost one year?
Sarah Harrison 1:03
I can’t. No, it’s unbelievable. You know what else is unbelievable? You just told me we had over 2,000 followers on Facebook. That’s awesome.
Just post a question on our site, and you could be a listener of the month. But first, what are we reading this month?
Carolyn Daughters 1:31
We are reading an awesome book. It’s The Hound of the Baskervilles. Everyone’s heard of it. If you haven’t yet read it, you must. It is a quick read. And it is so much fun. Today, we’ll be talking about the science of deduction.
Sarah Harrison 1:43
The book is awesome. I think I read it in high school and then completely forgot it. And so it was all a mystery to me.
Carolyn Daughters 1:52
The mystery was a mystery. I love that. And so this Gothic-inspired spine tingler includes a spectral hound, a hands off Sherlock Holmes, and lots of talk about the science of deduction. In fact, he’s not in part of the book, which I thought was kind of weird. And also weirdly awesome.
Sarah Harrison 2:08
Yeah, it was like he was there though, because like Watson kept thinking about him. Like his presence was there, even though he wasn’t physically doing anything. Interesting.
Carolyn Daughters 2:21
It was published in 1902. It’s considered by many people to be Arthur Conan Doyle’s best book.
Sarah Harrison 2:28
It was really good. I really enjoyed it.
Carolyn Daughters 2:31
Before we get into the book and learn about the science of deduction, we want to thank our sponsor, and this episode, our sponsor is Grace Sigma. Grace Sigma is a Denver based process engineering consultancy specializing in the intersection where business meets technology. Grace Sigma works nationally in industries such as finance, telecom, and government. They use lean, lean methods to assist in documentation development data, dashboarding, storytelling, process visualization, training and project management. Whether you’re a small business looking to scale effectively, or a large corporation whose processes have become tangled gray sigma can help to learn more or to schedule a free consultation, email email@example.com.
We also have a listener award. And that award goes to Brad Wetzler of Austin, Texas. Thank you, Brad, for being a fan of Tea, Tonic & Toxin. To show our appreciation, we’re going to be sending you a very cool sticker.
Sarah Harrison 3:59
So it’s a really cool sticker. And you can stick it to like lots of stuff.
Carolyn Daughters 4:03
You can. I mean, not your kitchen wall.
Sarah Harrison 4:07
You can give it to your toddler and see where they put it. Exactly where you don’t want it is where they’re gonna stick it.
Carolyn Daughters 4:30
Tell us what you’re thinking about the books we’re reading. Tell us what you think about our upcoming 2023 episodes. Weigh in on the website or on our Facebook page or Instagram page. Our website is teatonicandtoxin.com and our Facebook and Instagram pages are @teatonicandtoxin.
So Sarah, tell us about The Hound of the Baskervilles and the science of deduction. First off, listeners, we like to go through a quick summary just so we’re all on the same page. We know not everybody has read the book as recently as we have. So we’re gonna get everybody on the same page.
Sarah Harrison 6:20
We are. Are we spoiling this one? Are we saving that for the second episode?
Carolyn Daughters 6:25
I think we can spoil this one. And the reason why is I feel like the killer, the culprit, is really obvious. Did you feel that way?
Sarah Harrison 6:35
I mean, I would say I probably guessed it, but …
Carolyn Daughters 6:41
At the two thirds point in the book, Sherlock Holmes uses the science of deduction and clearly states that a particular guy did it. It was not shocking. What is more shocking is how the criminal uses the curse of the Baskervilles to his advantage and goes about with his dastardly plan and all of that. So I think we can spoil this one.
Sarah Harrison 7:01
Okay, spoiler alert …
Carolyn Daughters 7:02
Sarah Harrison 7:04
Pause us if you want to go read the book real quick. So The Hound of the Baskervilles was serialized in The Strand magazine and published in book form in 1902. The tale is set prior to Sherlock Holmes shocking death. Okay, well, I’m just learning a lot right now. So you can learn along with me his fans, many of whom cancelled their subscriptions to The Strand. Rightfully so. I’m going to cancel my subscription.
Carolyn Daughters 7:47
Me too. I’m done with The Strand.
Sarah Harrison 7:51
Holmes and Watson hear the story of the curse of the Baskervilles. Hugo Baskerville, who imprisoned a young woman at his Dartmoor estate in Devonshire, England. In the 18th century, Hugo ultimately fell victim to a supernatural hound. As he pursued the woman she escaped the imprisonment along the Moors one night, the recent death of Sir Charles Baskerville on the Moors has rekindled local suspicions and fears. Holmes is called upon to protect Charles’ heir, Sir Henry Baskerville, who has received an anonymous warning and is being trailed by a bearded man. Holmes announces he’s very busy in London, and he sends Dr. Watson to accompany Sir Henry to Dartmoor to be his eyes and ears. Once in Ardmore, Watson meet siblings Jack and Beryl Stapleton. Beryl mistakes Watson for Sir Henry and warms him to leave. Many unsettling events occur. Watson learns and escaped convict is on the loose. Here’s a hound howling and sees a mysterious figure wandering the moors at night. Watson soon discovers that Barrymore, the house butler, is aiding the escaped convict, who turns out to be his brother-in-law. Watson also discovers that the mysterious figure is none other than Sherlock Holmes, who has been conducting his own secret investigation. Using the science of deduction, Holmes has learned that Stapleton is next in line to inherit the Baskerville fortune. Stapleton has plotted to kill his relatives, using a vicious hound that he has painted with phosphorus to appear sinister. Holmes uses Henry Baskerville as bait to catch Stapleton. As Henry crosses the Moors on a foggy night, the hound comes for him. Holmes and Watson killed the beast. Just the nick of time Stapleton flees the scene and a swallowed up by the grump in the Grimpen Mire.
I was so interested in the setting of the book that I was googling the map of this place in Devonshire. I looked it up and sure enough, like the whole area, is a national park now.
Carolyn Daughters 10:40
Where people are just falling into this boggy mire.
Sarah Harrison 10:46
Like Yellowstone, where you find a foot every once in a while.
Carolyn Daughters 10:51
So the long and the short of of Sherlock Holmes is. Arthur Conan Doyle apparently became tired of writing about Sherlock Holmes. So he killed him.
And so his death occurs in the 1893 story The Final Problem. Conan Doyle brings Holmes back in The Hound of the Baskervilles. The book is set prior to his death in The Final Problem.
Sarah Harrison 11:42
This is like too much information!
Carolyn Daughters 11:46
Spoiler alert. Spoiler. Spoiler. For the rest of you who’ve been under a rock like Sarah and don’t know very much about Sherlock Holmes ….
Sarah Harrison 12:04
Readers, tell us if you knew that.
Carolyn Daughters 12:08
Yes, we want to know if you did. Did we have more spoilers than we were aware of?
Sarah Harrison 12:26
Sherlock Holmes was everywhere. There’s a television show after television. He’s not dead in them.
Carolyn Daughters 12:29
He is alive. And then that is true. We’ve all become sort of Holmes experts, I think.
Sarah Harrison 12:37
Oh, no, I could be exceptionally oblivious. I’m not ruling that out.
Carolyn Daughters 12:45
Sarah, let’s talk about the science of deduction. In case listeners you are not aware, Sarah understands the science of deduction and the scientific method. She really likes to get to the heart of the matter and dig deep. That’s core to who you are.
Sherlock Holmes has his own process. How did you feel about this science of deduction? Did his process seem like the real deal to you? Did you feel like Arthur Conan Doyle was sort of stretching a little bit? Did it mean could you have figured out what Sherlock Holmes figures out, for example, at the beginning of the book without walking stick?
Sarah Harrison 13:37
I mean, it’s hard to say. I wouldn’t say this is a scientific method so much, you know, because he does kind of test Watson, who comes up with a theory. That is reasonable. But then Holmes comes up with a superior theory.
Carolyn Daughters 14:03
There’s this Dr. Mortimer who shows up and leaves a walking stick behind. We don’t see Dr. Mortimer right away, but all we see is the stick. Sherlock Holmes is able to pick the stick up and look at the stick and understand things about who Dr. Mortimer is. And Watson attempts to do the same thing. And I thought it was pretty admirable what Watson was able to do, I thought, he’s pretty good. Watson, of course, is wrong about a bunch of things. And Holmes, of course, is right.
Sarah Harrison 14:34
I think it was hard to say, because neither one of the situations would occur today. You know, you’re not receiving walking sticks from hunt clubs or hospitals. But I guess back in the day, it was a thing, and Holmes uses the science of deduction to determine that the stick was more likely gifted from a hospital than a hunt club. I mean, it sounds reasonable.
Carolyn Daughters 14:55
What if you have your business office and somebody left behind their backpack, their water bottle their something, they left something behind such as a cell phone that’s locked. But you can look at the cell phone and see various things about the cell phone and the cell phone case. And what you see helps you identify who the person is who’s going to come pick up that lost cell phone, for example. Is that possible?
Sarah Harrison 15:28
I suppose it’s possible, but it was a pretty specific stick with initials on it. And isn’t it reasonable to deduce that a doctor because they both guessed country doctor who walked a lot? So that’s the one thing Watson got right. I think it is reasonable that a doctor is more likely to get a stick from a hospital than a hunt club.
Carolyn Daughters 15:51
That seemed more obvious. The initials are CCH. Sherlock Holmes uses the science of deduction to determine the letters stand for Charing Cross Hospital.
Sarah Harrison 15:59
Maybe that’s what it is like a difference between how much of your own self are you incorporating into the science of deduction? Versus how even handed are you in the deduction? You know, maybe Watson’s a hunter or something, so he’s thinking about hunting. And country life, I think, was notorious for hunts. I mean, Holmes is a little over the top. So it’s always just on the edge of reasonable, which I think is why we like Watson. You know, at this point, Holmes was so rude to Watson. He’s so rude.
Carolyn Daughters 16:43
He really is rude.
Sarah Harrison 16:53
He started talking. And it sounded like he was complimenting Watson on using the science of deduction. And Watson’s kind of preening about how he did a good job analyzing the walking stick, which in itself is a little weird. Like, one friend is the master and the other is the pupil. They didn’t start off that way. Right? And then Holmes is like, no, it’s not because you’re right or anything. It’s like Watson is the conduit which magnifies Holmes’ brilliance. Like, Watson is the muse.
Carolyn Daughters 17:27
It’s like he’s someone sitting for a portrait with a major painter or something like that.
Sarah Harrison 17:32
Which I kind of get because I’m a person that reasons my way to conclusions through argument. And so sometimes you need that foil to say something to help you get to your conclusion. But I’ve never experienced a situation where the foil must always be wrong so that I can always be right. Like, they make me more luminous, or anything. And so it was very one sided, but Watson was pleased about it nevertheless.
Carolyn Daughters 18:07
Yes. Holmes says to Watson, it may be that you are not yourself luminous, but you are a conductor of light. Some people, without possessing genius, have a remarkable power of stimulating it. Now, if someone said that to me, I’d probably have a few words for that person.
Sarah Harrison 18:23
You know, it’s wild, though. You sent me this other short story.
Carolyn Daughters 18:29
A short story that you read that I didn’t read.
Sarah Harrison 18:31
I read part of it.
Carolyn Daughters 18:40
Is it Martin Hewitt?
Sarah Harrison 18:43
Yeah, Martin Hewitt says almost the exact same thing to his best friend, who writes about his exploits, and I think I even underlined it because it was so outlandish.
Carolyn Daughters 19:27
Watson takes the criticism okay.
Sarah Harrison 19:33
I don’t know what that’s about. Is that like a real thing people do? Do some folks have a tendency to subordinate themselves to others? I mean, I feel like I do see that from time to time. I hesitate to say I’ve seen that in male friendships. Maybe you have.
Carolyn Daughters 20:03
I hadn’t thought about that til you just said that. But I’ve seen that, too.
Sarah Harrison 20:06
I don’t exactly understand it. But you know, that’s the concept of the alpha and the beta.
Carolyn Daughters 20:12
One person is sort of in awe of the other. And any kind words, even backwards, sideways kind words bring you pleasure. Like Watson says his words gave me keen pleasure. And I’m thinking, are those the words I just read to you? Because that’s crazy.
Sarah Harrison 20:36
Only through relationships seems to have shifted a bit, since we first were introduced to the pair where they’re like, you know, sorting each other out as roommates and just kind of learning about the other one now. Like, it’s like Watson’s almost his in his employment, or his assistants, or like he’s like, yeah, hey, Watson, why don’t you go down to Devonshire. Without even running it by him.
Carolyn Daughters 21:05
Here are two guys. Holmes has a lot going on and is busy with work. And then Watson, of course, there’s nothing going on.
Sarah Harrison 21:19
Yeah. I guess he’s still on his medical leave or something.
Carolyn Daughters 21:24
And so he’s at home at Holmes’s beck and call.
Sarah Harrison 21:31
So I’m reading about Holmes. And it felt like, like a phrase I hear a lot, currently, which is “they’re on the spectrum.” Yes. I think probably so, you know, someone could say something like that rude and think they’re making a compliment. And Holmes is just kind of like that all the time. Right.
Carolyn Daughters 21:58
So when he calls Watson a conductor of light and says, well, you obviously you’re not a genius, but you inspire genius in others. Those are thoughts that might go through some people’s minds. But not everybody would say them.
Sarah Harrison 22:15
No, definitely not. And it kind of made me think like, is that part of Holmes is endurance. You know, none of these other characters we’ve really read about have endured up until, like, you know, still being major motion picture material, right?
Carolyn Daughters 22:36
We have an affinity for the quirky outsider, right?
Sarah Harrison 22:38
Yeah. Like some kind of socially inept savant. Love those people? Yes. I don’t know what it is. Why do we do that?
Carolyn Daughters 22:48
I mean, maybe they seem so different and interesting. Also, in the Victorian and Edwardian era, I think having a character who’s a little off kilter is more interesting than having somebody who blends in with the pack. I think of all of the heroes and Wilkie Collins books. They’re hard to distinguish and hard to remember because they’re just heroes who save the day. They’re handsome men. They’re honest and true. And they play an important role in Wilkie Collins books, but I think we remember Sherlock Holmes because he is distinctive. He’s full-on committed to the science of deduction.
Sarah Harrison 23:35
Is it because he’s so different? Or because we, we like envy that, you know, do we want to be? Kind of it’s, it’s like, it’s just on the edge of achievable, you know, like the whole walking stick thing. It’s just right on the edge. Like, could I figure that out? I will not be looking at your water bottle.
Carolyn Daughters 23:57
I don’t know. When Watson was figuring out what he thought had happened to the walking stick and then trying to determine who the owner of the walking stick was, I felt like I could probably do about as well as Watson could do. And then Sherlock Holmes comes in and he’s, of course, perfect. He uses the science of deduction to figure every single thing out that you can find out about one walking stick. I don’t know I don’t envied Sherlock Holmes. I wouldn’t want to be Sherlock Holmes per se. He seems very isolated in his own way he seems in his own head. He is exceptionally bright in some areas and exceptionally dense and others.
Sarah Harrison 24:50
I mean, the same could be said of Watson though I feel like he’s not making any friends. Is just like adoring Sherlock Holmes.
Carolyn Daughters 25:00
That’s true. He’s sort of like the Victorian housewife, almost like sitting there waiting to be told what’s needed and what he should do next and it’s a very strange fawning role that in Victorian literature would probably more traditionally be played by a woman.
Sarah Harrison 25:25
Maybe. But we do have Edgar Allan Poe. Dupin, who had his own fawning roommate.
Carolyn Daughters 25:34
He did, but the roommate didn’t seem as fawning to me. First of all, like, Watson, the roommate in Edgar Allan Poe stories is the narrator. We never even learn that guy’s name. And he seems to have sort of an elevated sense of self where he lumps himself and Dupin together over and over again and makes fun of the police.
Sarah Harrison 25:59
Yeah, like he sees himself as Dupin’s associate.
Carolyn Daughters 26:03
I remember reading the Poe stories “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” and “The Purloined Letter” and thinking, hey, narrator, you haven’t done anything. He doesn’t do anything smart. Your science of deduction is nonexistent. It’s success by association.
Sarah Harrison 26:20
Yeah, we’re friends therefore …
Carolyn Daughters 26:22
You’re amazing, therefore, I’m amazing. And I’m also really bright and I can also look down on the the French police and say they’re very stupid and we are so bright.
Sarah Harrison 26:34
It is true that Poe’s detective doesn’t actually say anything insulting to his roommate.
Carolyn Daughters 26:43
Right? Whereas Watson doesn’t seem to lump himself in with Holmes.
Sarah Harrison 26:47
No, not at all. It’s very much like a teacher and student. Holmes is always giving Watson pop quizzes. All my friends love when I do that!
Really, I wouldn’t do that when I was a trainer. When I would train I you know, I’d go through all this training. And then I just walk through and ask people questions, and they definitely hated it. Like everyone hates it. Yes. But that like that level of stress is actually super great at Lakes. What is consolidating the learning? Okay, so that moment where you have to answer the question and you’re like, make it stick?
But it’s stressful. I mean, just even this Watson/Sherlock Holmes situation where suddenly, you know, the guy that you think is the smartest guy in the world, like, what do you think about this stick, Watson? Use the science of deduction! And you know, he’s judging your every word and you knows if you’ve got it right or not? Yeah. And if you’re best friends, that’s stressful.
Carolyn Daughters 28:04
But I think Watson is admirable. He takes the challenge. I think he does at least as good a job as I would do. I couldn’t do what Holmes does. But I thought Watson did a pretty good job.
Sarah Harrison 28:23
Maybe I am just a little bit of a weirdo. But I do have this sort of mental hobby of putting the pieces together and trying to come up with like, what’s the situation? I actually did it earlier this week. Well, I won’t go into details, but I was gonna putting the pieces together. And I was like, I think this person has this background. And this is why this behaviors coming across in this manner. Okay. And man, if the next day did not bear that out to be correct, I was really congratulating Wow, in a conversation and they’re like, hey, what’s so this is my background. I was glad I had said it out loud to Nate. So maybe, maybe I’m a little like, maybe it’s just me that I’m kind of like, Oh, could I do that? Could I really do it at that level?
Carolyn Daughters 29:20
Are you consciously testing yourself? Where you’re trying to be sure?
Sarah Harrison 29:25
Because it’s not a situation where you always find out if you’re right or not, okay, you know, like, if you’re sitting, you know, it’s just you’re thinking about a friend of a friend and you’re sitting at a restaurant, like looking at, you know, a couple across the restaurant and amusing yourself, like, what’s going on there. Right? You can use the the science of deduction, but you’ll never know a lot of stuff if you’re right or not, but every once in a while you do find out right? If you call the situation or not.
Carolyn Daughters 29:51
Not everybody comes back for the walking stick. Then Holmes and Watson would be at a standstill. Is it a country doctor or some guy who’s out in the country hunting? I need some firewood. You’ll never know. And so you burn the stick on a cold night. And you never know the truth about the walking stick.
Sarah Harrison 30:15
It was interesting to me too. And I don’t know if you agree with this or not, but I felt like not just their relationship changed. But he seemed to be kind of a slightly different Sherlock Holmes.
Carolyn Daughters 30:25
Different than in A Study in Scarlet, the first book we read, which was his first book.
Sarah Harrison 30:29
Yeah. But he seemed to have more weaknesses or like, you know, Watson kind of described him as sort of preening under compliments. The whole book wrapped up with a discussion on getting credit for things.
Carolyn Daughters 30:47
Yeah. It was a theme in A Study in Scarlet where he was saying, these police detectives were going to get all the credit if this murder was solved by Holmes. So Holmes said, Well, I’m not even sure I’m interested in solving this murder, because no one’s going to know that I did it. And so it’s sort of backward. Or I guess it went two directions for me in A Study in Scarlet, where it seemed like he was not asking for that kind of credit or seeking it out. And yet, at the same time, he was making decisions, not on his interest in the science of deduction but on whether he got that credit or not.
Sarah Harrison 31:28
By this time, I guess, Watson’s been publishing a lot of stories about him. And Holmes is just kind of indifferent to the praise. Whereas in the first book, he would have not been indifferent to it. Right. I don’t know if this is a natural development, you know, like, now that he’s getting plenty of credit in the eyes of the public and is a well known personality. Maybe he doesn’t crave that anymore. Or maybe the author has figured out the character. Yeah, like he’s modifying the character over time, like you said, figuring it out. And that’s different than if it was unintentional.
Carolyn Daughters 32:11
Wait, so what do you mean by unintentional?
Sarah Harrison 32:13
Well, I almost mean, like, you kind of forgot Sherlock Holmes, his personality, and just kind of reinvented a new one.
Carolyn Daughters 32:23
Maybe. We don’t know what the author did or did not know or what he intended. I would think it’s more like when you do a pilot of a television show. And I can think of so many pilots. I mean, think of two shows, I love The Office and Parks and Recreation. But they both had, in my opinion, terrible pilots. Problematic pilots are common. And I think part of that is you’re figuring out who these people are, and what their dynamic is, and what their backstories are. And then later in that season, or maybe in the second season, you’re really starting to get into that groove. And you’re building up what you’ve been figuring out about those characters as they come to life, either on the television show or in Sherlock Holmes on the page. And so I think the characters necessarily evolved. And in a series book, where you have a bunch of Sherlock Holmes stories, unlike a standalone mystery, I think almost necessarily the characters evolve. Not just on the page, but also in the author’s mind.
Sarah Harrison 33:38
Yeah, I’m really interested in your take on this, as you’re an actual author. You write about characters fictionally. How does that work for you? How have you changed characters over time? Do you have to go back to the beginning and rewrite them?
Carolyn Daughters 33:55
I go back to the beginning and rewrite. So, the first time I started writing my novel, I thought, I’m gonna have to do an entire revision of this book from beginning to end. And it was daunting. And then, years later, I realized I had to do 4,032 revisions of the book from beginning to end. And I was like, the dream the pipe dream was the second revision. No, it’s like, because you have to write the draft of a book in order to understand the book. I believe that unless you’re Hemingway, which you can make cocktails and in six weeks pop out The Sun Also Rises. Most of us are not Hemingway. Most of us are figuring it out as we go.
So you write the book and at the end of the book you realize these were the things that mattered to me as a writer, these are the things that matter in the book to the characters. These are who these characters are. And then you go back to the start and you you make sure that the story, the characters, the setting, they’re all lending themselves to the things you’ve been learning about the book you yourself are writing.
And there’s a whole different element at play in a series that features the same set of characters, same set of core characters in multiple books were to just in every book, Sherlock Holmes is pompous, and he plays the violin, and he is all about the science of deduction. It gets maybe a little stale. And so you’ve got to surprise a little bit. And one of the surprising things for me in The Hound of the Baskervilles is the friendship between these guys were homeless seriously seems to think Watson is his friend. And I thought that’s pretty cool. Because he’s sort of an oddball. We don’t know. He’s, he’s a little out there. He’s not just about the science of deduction. He legitimately cares about Watson. He legitimately is worried about Watson’s well being and safety and all this stuff. Like, I think that’s a cool element that we don’t see in A Study in Scarlet.
Sarah Harrison 36:12
Yeah, that’s true. I felt like maybe you should just write shorter books. You don’t have to go back and revise the character.
Carolyn Daughters 36:22
It’s my dream. My magic trick would be to write a book like Ernest Hemingway supposedly did. You sit down, and six weeks later you have The Sun Also Rises. It’s not a long book. But it’s a beautiful book. It is. And most of us couldn’t write that book in a lifetime, let alone in six weeks. And in my perfect world, it wouldn’t take — I don’t know what I’m on, 2,025 years — to write a book. It’d be a little closer to six weeks.
Sarah Harrison 37:08
I remember, I turned 20. And I was like, my life is over. Picasso had his first show in Paris at 20. So what have I done?
Carolyn Daughters 37:23
Wow. That’s a lot of ambition at 20 years old. I know with The Hound of the Baskervilles, you felt the setting pretty deeply.
Sarah Harrison 37:44
Yeah, I loved it. I really liked it. I think I mentioned I was Googling it. Yeah, and you had some some words here on the setting. London versus Dartmoor?
Carolyn Daughters 37:58
So let’s talk authorial intent. Conan Doyle could have just set the whole book in London. Or it could have set the whole book in Dartmoor. But he goes back and forth between the two really different settings.
Sarah Harrison 38:21
Yeah, well, it it a little bit, not nearly to the extent but he does seem to like the scenery switch. You know, Study in Scarlet was extreme. Like, oh, we started a new book about Utah. Cool, what’s this book?
Carolyn Daughters 38:40
If you have not read A Study in Scarlet, you you must. I mean, keep listening to this podcast. Don’t stop. Don’t stop now. But after the podcast, read A Study in Scarlet and also read The Hound of the Baskervilles. So good, both of them. And you’re right about the extreme difference in setting. It’s interesting to see how the science of deduction plays out in these wild, desolate settings.
Sarah Harrison 38:58
This one wasn’t quite as extreme. Both settings are in England. But it does go from sort of the foggy London town to the countryside, but also this kind of foreign feel this primitiveness where he talks about, like all of the old, primitive dwellings and the monoliths, and the mire, and the bogs and like, these ponies are drowning in bogs. It was very Neverending Story.
Carolyn Daughters 39:33
And the Grimpen Mire. Grimpen is a made up word. I believe Conan Doyle came up with it. The Grimpen Mire, I mean.
Sarah Harrison 39:46
They do have that bog down there. I figured that was its actual name.
Carolyn Daughters 39:51
I don’t know. My understanding is that he came up with it. Listeners, am I right? Am I wrong? Help us.
It is boggy there. You know there’s a mire, and our ponies falling into it.
Sarah Harrison 40:15
They were kind of like wild ponies? I guess the mire ponies didn’t know better?
Carolyn Daughters 40:22
Well, it sounds like it looked like grass.
Sarah Harrison 40:27
Very deceiving and then you step in it, you know because the way I think it’s like these box and but this green stuff lives on top. I could be totally wrong.
Carolyn Daughters 40:37
So it’s kind of like the shifting sands in The Moonstone. Like this really unsafe, unsteady ground. And you step on it at your peril. I mean, it’s fairly terrifying.
Sarah Harrison 40:55
I liked that part. I haven’t been to this area, but I have been up in Scotland and to Ireland, and they still have so many of these primitive things. On our honeymoon, we were on the Isle of Arran. I looked up the area and learned there were lots of monoliths. The whole area was just fields of sheep and monoliths. There was not another soul there. No one else is out there looking at it. No other tourists.
And it is kind of eerie, but it’s neat to kind of see that that’s all there.
Carolyn Daughters 42:08
I love the Dartmoor setting and Baskerville Hall. I could easily spend lots of time there.
Sarah Harrison 42:21
One of the things that I thought was really cool, it definitely resonated with me, is when Sir Henry gets so excited about the countryside and his past. He was really feeling like this is my home. And then you find out he’s never been to Baskerville Hall in his life. It’s all new. But the countryside felt like home to him.
Carolyn Daughters 42:52
I love two places that are sort of similar. One is Salta, Argentina. The other is Taos, New Mexico. I felt in both places like I’d been there before.
Sarah Harrison 43:15
Do you have like a history there? Or like family history? Really?
Carolyn Daughters 43:20
That’s a good question. In Santa Fe, I had a relative who was a major painter, Robert Daughters. His works are in various galleries in Santa Fe. I mean, there was something about when I was in Santa Fe, much like when I was in Salta, Argentina. I was I just I don’t know, I just in my bones. I felt that I had been there before and that I could easily have spent a year there. I didn’t want to leave.
Sarah Harrison 44:00
That’s cool. I’m glad you said that. I thought that too, but not about so. So my main name is McMurray and like the Murray clan was all over Scotland. Yeah. And I have to say I’ve been there a few times. And each time I go like feels right. The climate feels right. The scenery feels right. And I’m just like, I’m in my spot. I’m even looking at Scottish Island real estate.
Carolyn Daughters 44:40
Sarah Harrison 44:41
Yeah. I always am looking. I’m like, an island. Yeah. So yeah, it just it feels right. And I wonder I’m like is there something about like a family history and a place or maybe there’s not maybe there is it sounds like so there’s like there’s something medical, you know, if your family’s from a specific area, maybe you have that sort of in your DNA and your bones.
Carolyn Daughters 44:59
I don’t think I have any family from Argentina. So maybe you have a spiritual home or a connection with a place. For me, it’s something about a desert area, mountainous, where it’s almost a flat scrub bowl, flowers springing up in unexpected places, and feeling that you could just keep going up and down hills just out of sheer curiosity as to what’s over the next pass. It’s a feeling that you could do it forever. And I love that idea that you get up to the top of a hill and you see further and farther than you did from down below. But then in front of you is another dip and another hill. And it just goes on and on. There’s something about that landscape, the wildness of it and the unexpected beauty of it. And certainly anytime I go to Taos or just really to New Mexico, I feel that and then in Aalta, I felt it stronger than I felt it anywhere else before.
Sarah Harrison 46:28
That’s interesting. You said two words that are the exact same words I would use, which is wildness and beauty whenever I think of like the Scottish countryside, when I look around.
Carolyn Daughters 46:39
But in this book, it’s described as if this sort of wildness isn’t necessarily beautiful. It’s scary.
Sarah Harrison 46:49
This has come up several times. In these Victorian books you brought up such as The Moonstone, they have a problem with nature. Like, this is the most gross beach ever.
I’m like, aren’t 100% of beaches great? That’s the deal, like beaches are commanding and beautiful. But they like, beaches are ugly and awful. It was kind of the same here. And they were just constantly creeped out even though Sir Henry also had this love of the countryside and his home and his family name and that sort of stuff going on.
Carolyn Daughters 47:27
It’s interesting, but Conan Doyle, or Watson, or whoever we want to ascribe this point of view sees this as a sort of dark, desolate, lonely place. It’s not lively and full of culture, and maybe the beauty of the city, the way London is described. It’s the antithesis. It’s this old world harkening back to something dangerous and deadly.
Sarah Harrison 48:01
Yeah, you were kind of thinking about the Grimpen Mire almost in metaphorical terms, sort of representing art more being stuck in the past stuck in the past.
Carolyn Daughters 48:12
The mire that is responsible for at least one, if not multiple deaths. People are walking on the Grimpen Mire and they’re lost forever. The past can destroy you.
Sarah Harrison 48:35
Yeah, it was very bizarre to me where they’re like, where’s this escaped convict? We haven’t even checked all of these primitive homes.
Carolyn Daughters 48:44
There’s only like eight people who live there, too.
Sarah Harrison 48:48
They’re all just waiting for him to come out of the moor.
Carolyn Daughters 48:52
Yeah, I thought that was a really interesting addition to the story. There’s this guy Selden, who is a criminal. He has escaped prison. And I mean, he’s a really bad guy. Like he’s all kinds of bad. And Watson knew the case because he had either heard it from Holmes or had discussed it with Holmes. Selden was a violent murder, and now he’s wandering the moors. Watson uses the science of deduction to discover that Barrymore, the manservant, is providing clothing and food to support Selden because Selden is Mrs. Barrymore’s brother.
Sarah Harrison 49:45
That was an interesting aspect. And of course, you know, throwing a whole other criminal in there leaves this additional confusing factor, which I think the story needs. It complicates the science of deduction in interesting ways. But also the way Mrs. Barrymore describes the relationship was really sweet.
Carolyn Daughters 50:10
She’s very upset and wants to help him because she remembers him when he was a child. She has these fond memories. So when he dies on the moors, she’s weeping. We know this is a really violent guy, and yet she’s crying for him. There’s something very human about that. But then I’m torn about it as well. You hear news stories where someone has committed a crime and the family harbors the killer. Something they would never do unless it was their daughter or their son. And it’s justified, I guess, by the fact that you can’t let your flesh and blood be turned over to the authorities.
Sarah Harrison 51:20
Well, you always know them in another way. And I’m reading this and it’s very tender. And then I’m saying, Well, how, how realistic is this? I don’t know. You know, when they describe how Selden goes wrong. It’s kind of like, well, we indulged him too much as a boy. They kind of spoil them. Then he fell in with bad companions and became a brutal murderer.
Carolyn Daughters 51:50
But then to what degree does that affect or potentially justify them? The adult man he becomes?
Sarah Harrison 52:00
Carolyn Daughters 52:04
I mean, not every person who had a troubled upbringing become a murderer. Obviously.
Sarah Harrison 52:12
But it’s complicated. Like raising kids. And so I’m always wondering what are people doing. How are they doing it. What’s the right way to do it? They spoiled him, and he became self centered. Sure. Or in modern parlance, we might say he’s a narcissist. He’s privileged. He thinks the world is all about him. You do see that. You see articles about lowered empathy and this and that, and all the things that lead to lowered empathy. But do you become a murderer?
Carolyn Daughters 53:01
Right. So this is an extreme response. And yet, even in this story, Mrs. Barrymore lays the groundwork for how this child became this adult monster.
Sarah Harrison 53:17
The whole story seems a little extreme. It’s relatable and yet very extreme. And you know, when Watson finds Selden, he looks like an animal with sunken eyes and almost non human. And so then you get into the idea that if you’re behaving like a monster, you’re a killer.
Carolyn Daughters 53:36
Does does your physicality necessarily reflect the actions that you’re committing? Is that part of the science of deduction? Is there a one-to-one correlation? Or do the actions you’re committing transfigure or transform your physicality so that you start reflecting the monster that you have become?
Sarah Harrison 54:02
I mean, the Victorians seem to think so, although I would say a lot of modern murderers are known for being kind of charming.
Carolyn Daughters 54:12
Well, Stapleton is a murderer in this book, and he doesn’t look like a crazy monster.
Sarah Harrison 54:17
That’s true. He’s a ladies man. I’m not quite sure how he pulled that off. So you have two really different murderers, where the less charming one is actually mourned by a sister.
Carolyn Daughters 54:34
Which is so interesting. She remembers the child he was, the one who clung to her hand. And she can picture that, and she wants to hold onto that memory. But Stapleton has nobody to care about him, to truly mourn him once once the two women who love him understand he doesn’t love them back.
Sarah Harrison 55:07
Yeah, he’s more of the charming psychopath type.
Carolyn Daughters 55:13
Well, Sarah, we have a whole lot more to talk about with regard to the science of deduction — and the hound.
Sarah Harrison 55:20
And there is a hound.
Carolyn Daughters 55:24
Yes, there is a hound. It’s a spoiler alert in the title of the book. The Hound of the Baskervilles, so awesome. So awesome that we have two episodes.
Sarah Harrison 55:37
So come back from the next hour.
Carolyn Daughters 55:40
We’ll talk more about it. Until then, stay mysterious.
Sarah Harrison 55:47
Yeah, keep on toxin-ing.
September 11, 2023
Sarah, Carolyn, and Mike Nugent keep the Maltese Falcon conversation flowing with LOADS more thoughts about Sam Spade, Effie Perine, Casper Gutman, Joel Cairo, and, of course, the ever-elusive Brigid O'Shaughnessy. Folks, we have a lot of ground to cover. Join us, won’t you?Listen →
August 4, 2023
Author Mike Nugent joins Sarah and Carolyn to talk about noir, crime fiction, and all things Sam Spade (who’s described as resembling a blond satan). The Maltese Falcon changed the way crime fiction was written. You’ll want to read it in one sitting and then give our podcast a listen.Listen →
July 30, 2023
Hey, Continental Op, what’s your deal? Are you a hero? Anti-hero? Something else altogether? Hear our thoughts about the Op, Dinah Brand, Whisper, and all the gang – and let us know your tally of how many people wind up dead in the book. It’s hard to keep track.Listen →