The other mystery of The Hound of the Baskervilles is who exactly wrote it. Arthur Conan Doyle credited the book’s inception to his friend Bertram Fletcher Robinson, managing editor of the upstart Daily Express. But suspicion has lingered that the younger man’s contribution was downplayed by the established writer. In a letter to his mother, Robinson even went so far as to refer to it as “our Sherlock Holmes book”.
John O’Connell’s first novel has fun with this question of attribution, recasting the rather staid journalist as a laudanum-addicted, prostitute-visiting hack, torn between adoration and envy of his famous companion. While the relationship between the two men recalls that of Holmes and Watson, the atmosphere harks back to late-Victorian sensation novels. Wilkie Collins might have enjoyed the ghostly descriptions of Dartmoor and Cromer. A period-perfect exploration of ambition and resentment, ideal for a misty autumn night by the fireside.
The Baskerville Legacy, by John O’Connell, Short Books, RRP£12.99, 172 pages