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Sherlock Holmes Was Wrong: Reopening the Case of the Hound of the Baskervilles Hardcover – October 28, 2008

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; 1 edition (October 28, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596916052
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596916050
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.8 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,318,761 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

French literature professor and psychoanalyst Bayard (How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read) returns to the close reading and iconoclastic analysis of classic detective fiction he did in Who Killed Roger Ackroyd? with this audacious revisionist view of one of the best-known mysteries of all time. As always, Bayard playfully counters the ways literary academics read with the way real people read as he explains his theory of detective criticism. Arguing that Sherlock Holmes often drew false conclusions, Bayard picks apart the apparently airtight case Holmes assembled in The Hound of the Baskervilles and offers an alternative solution. He goes a step further than with the Agatha Christie whodunit by suggesting that Holmes erred in his identification not only of the murderer but of the murder victim. Readers may be more impressed with Bayard's cleverness than his tongue-in-cheek arguments, but his logic will lead many to hope that his opinion on who really killed Hamlet's father (in Enquête sur Hamlet) will be translated into English as well. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"With wit and careful analysis, Bayard makes a convincing case." ---Los Angeles Times --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

Customer Reviews

It wasn't very satisfying.
This statement alone is utterly absurd but Bayard fails to even provide a plausible explanation of the result.
Bayard is pretentious, verbose, and, not insignificantly, unkind to both Holmes and Conan Doyle.
Jason Kirkfield

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Jason Kirkfield VINE VOICE on October 15, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have nothing against reexamining a literary classic. Even with such well-trodden turf as the Holmesian canon, enjoying a familiar story through someone else's lens may provide fresh perspective. So why just 2 stars here? Much of this book is simply Bayard indulging his own specialty (psychoanalysis), ultimately asking the ridiculous question: Are the characters in a book committing crimes behind the reader's (even the author's) back? Bayard: "The book is not the story of an investigation, but a secret narrative of an interminable killing of which the reader is the unconscious voyeur and accomplice." (!)

Detective criticism is Bayard's unique approach; he tried it previously with Who Killed Roger Ackroyd?: The Mystery Behind the Agatha Christie Mystery, which appears to have received a lukewarm reception. So instead of Stapleton's dog, we are presented with an alternate murderer. All well and good in the main, but when you realize that Bayard bases his insight on a loose French translation of Conan Doyle's original, most of whatever power his punch may have had is lost. For example, the translator's note on page 144, following Bayard's analogy of Holmes to the Hound, cautions us that, "Bayard is working from a French translation" which renders Conan Doyle's original text of "his eyes shining brightly in the moonlight" to the much narrower "his eyes gleamed like a wolf's." (!!)

Bayard registers some good observations, such as questioning why Holmes takes Dr. Mortimer's account at face value ("If Mortimer, for whatever reason, has given an inexact version--for instance by mistaking the prints of some other animal for a dog's--then the detective's whole solution collapses.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By David J. Loftus on April 27, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Pierre Bayard, a professor of French literature at the University of Paris VIII and psychoanalyst, asserts that in fingering Jack Stapleton and his hound, Holmes nailed the wrong suspect(s): "... I feel there is every reason to suppose that the generally acknowledged solution of the atrocious crimes that bloodied the Devonshire moors simply does not hold up, and that the real murderer escaped justice."

In brief chapters, Bayard recounts the well-known plot, describes Holmes's methods of inquiry (along the way noting a number of mistakes committed by the master throughout the canon, both acknowledged by Holmes or Watson and not), presents his own method of "detective criticism" ("The aim ... is to become more rigorous than even the detectives in literature and the writers who create them, and thus to work out solutions that are more satisfying to the soul"), and then delineates all the problems with the received text and solution.

Among the problems Bayard highlights are: Why did the hound leave no marks on the first corpse, that of Sir Charles Baskerville? When Selden, the convict, dies wearing the clothes of Sir Henry Baskerville, the hound is never actually seen, so why assume that it was responsible? It does attack Sir Henry near the end, but only after a shot has wounded it first.

Bayard also notes that, after fastening on Stapleton as his suspect, reading all the clues as pointing in his direction, and then driving the man out onto the moor to his certain death, Holmes waves away the issue of motive! Watson asks him, "If Stapleton came into the succession, how could he explain the fact that he, the heir, had been living unannounced under another name so close to the property? How could he claim it without causing suspicion and inquiry?
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By DorothyFan1 on November 1, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Reading this book made me scramble back to my old copy of Sherlock Holmes mysteries. One particularly disturbing aspect of this stunning new analysis suggests Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had a vendetta not only against his creation...but also Sherlock Holmes fanatics. It warns the reader of an unorthodox way of understanding the complex interaction between fiction and reality. The cruel irony of realizing we as readers can be tricked into believing one conclusion when the real one is in plain view should be lost on no one. This book may end up becoming a classic in literary criticism.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By wrlord on April 24, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This book reads like an undergraduate thesis. It's nothing but pretentious metaphysical sophistry of the worst water. This exercise could have had a bit of fun injected into it were it not for the ponderous earnestness with which the author dully circles around his thesis. Bayard betrays a stunning lack of understanding of anything but the literal words of the translations he has read; subtext, metaphor and literary context elude him utterly, despite a penchant to name drop at least a dozen other Conan Doyle and other stories.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Sean Fraser on November 13, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Sherlock Holmes mysteries. It will tend to encourage the reader to be more skeptical in the future of the Great Detective's work, and in a good way. And, of course, if you really like detective fiction, you are bound to find it interesting in its own right.

Spoiler Alert: The remainder of this review is meant for those who have already read the book.

Professor Bayard comes dangerously close to making a truly brilliant, though ultimately flawed argument: The Hound of the Baskervilles was Sir Conan Doyle's revenge upon not only Holmes, whom he had grown to despise, but also upon the legions of Holmes fans who would not let the detective stay dead. How could this joke have been exacted? By having Holmes finger an innocent man in a manner most convincing to all who adore him - yet with clues as to the real culprit available for posterity to mull over and, ultimately pass judgment upon Holmes and his legions of gullible fans. Let's face it, that would be a cool theory, and kinda hilarious, if true.

However, Professor Bayard would much rather flirt with mysticism in the form of the alleged "autonomy of fictional characters," their possible sojourns into our world, and Freudian psychoanalysis, than advance a more plausible explanation as to why Holmes was so fabulously duped.

The Professor's applied methodology is this: poke some holes in Sherlock Holmes' theory regarding the particulars of the crimes, then assert that those holes are big enough to make room for his own theory.
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