With such an ambitious, and in some aspects arrogant, title Pierre Bayard was always going to have to write a very convincing analysis. Which in my opinion he managed to do while also throwing in a hint of literary criticism of a type I had not paid attention to as of yet. And while such things appeared at first disconnected from his analysis he managed to pull everything back together by the end to throw the entire case on its head.
Bayard for the first half of the book begins with a recap of past events. This is the more taxing and uninteresting aspect of his work. And when he leaves The Hounds of the Baskervilles to talk about how he developed a mode of detective criticism for use on Hamlet and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd serves to do little but tell how good Bayard is at solving mysteries the writers cannot. However once you pass through this unnecessary hurdle the true magic of Bayard's analysis appears.
He begins by breaking down Holmes' method through drawing attention to passages from both The Hound of the Baskervilles and other notable stories in the canon. Through quotes and references he quickly reveals the subtle flaws behind Holmes' technique.
Bayard also indicates that since the crime is observed from Watson's point of view all observation of clues and suspects is tainted by his opinion. This of course influences the way the reader observes the case in the end.
The next part in the investigation involves a look at the accused parties and creating proper alibis from the text. Firstly the hound is examined so that Bayard can indicate why he doesn't believe the creature guilty. Secondly a look is offered at the hound's master to find out why he is likely not guilty.
A proper examination of the crime out of place Bayard proceeds on a slight tangent. It is this aspect of his work which lowers its overall standard. His observations are quality and his final judgements profound but his method of informing the reader lets him down. Perhaps that is in part resultant from translation but nonetheless it is an obvious flaw.
The tangent involves a look at how the literary and real worlds collide. The author of course uses this to point out how Sherlock Holmes took on a life beyond that which Sir Arthur Conan Doyle intended. After all Hound of the Baskervilles was written after he had killed the great detective. This look at how Holmes became an almost real character provides some intriguing discussion apart from the case but is also used to provide reasoning to the structure of Doyle's bizarre tale.
The penultimate procedure is an explanation of how Holmes falls into being manipulated and used. In this section a brief examination is made of how Holmes comes to ignore his own rules about theorising and gathering data. "It is a capital mistake to theorize before you have all the evidence. It biases the judgement."
And again:"It is a capital mistake to theorise before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts."
For it becomes clear that in The Hound of the Baskervilles Holmes does theorise before gathering all data. As such his final judgement appears on the whole flawed despite his surety that he is correct.
Sherlock Holmes is renowned for one of my personal favourite quotes. "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."
However, as Bayard shows in his conclusion, the impossible has not in this case been completely eliminated. There remains one highly possible and more probable solution passed over by the detective. And it is this revelation of the true and more likely suspect which makes reading Bayard's work worth all the flaws and disjointed sentences.
In summary I would state that this is a work with on the whole excellent depth. A book that reveals how superficial the seemingly conclusive solution is in The Hound of the Baskervilles. And it is worth all the painstaking disassembly by Bayard to see the end conclusion. A conclusion which will flip your idea of The Hound of the Baskervilles on its head. So I suggest that if you haven't read The Hound of the Baskervilles that you do so and then right afterwards delve into this. You'll go from being impressed with the depth of the book to being impressed with the crime behind the crime. And I still cannot figure out if the brilliant Sir Arthur Conan Doyle intended his work to end that way or not. Although it seems he did with all the obvious threads...