As in Doyle’s previous work, the narrator of The Hound of the Baskervilles is Watson, who, as Holmes’s close companion, becomes an important participant in the case. Most of the novel is presented in the form of Watson’s memoirs, which also means that Watson belongs to the narrator outside the story, that is, has a higher level of authority over the story he narrates. It’s not the equivalent of an omniscient narrative, but when he tells a story, he knows the ins and outs of events. The narrator knows everything, but in telling the story he deliberately hides some of the facts until the end. Watson, for example, knew that the hound’s legend had been deliberately distorted by Stapleton, but he did not reveal this until the climax of the novel.
By setting up suspense, this design delays the satisfaction that readers get from knowing the truth and encourages them to continue reading. Watson was involved in the investigation of the whole affair. The first-person narration can increase the reader’s sense of identity and feel the development of the story from the perspective of the narrator. As the previous narration has laid the foundation for this inexplicable fear, it is easier for the reader to identify with the narrator and feel the great pressure from unknown dangers. Although the reader believes that the novel will follow the usual formula of the detective and that the danger will be relieved at the last moment, the tension caused by the text will not be lessened due to the strong emotional identity between the narrator and the reader.
On the one hand, it is convenient for the author to hide important information so as to attract readers. At the same time, it makes readers identify with emotions, and then reaches the purpose of attracting readers by setting suspense. Rather than telling the story chronologically, Doyle reshuffles the events to give the text a variety of features. For example, when Watson and his party are about to leave for Dartmoor, Holmes compares the moor to a stage where a tragedy is about to take place. He was clearly referring to something that had not yet happened, a statement that could be called a flashback. In this way, Doyle tells the reader that a play is about to begin.
Prenarration is rarely seen in western narrative texts, but Doyle is adept at it and draws the reader’s attention to the upcoming story. In addition to a few previews, the novel also contains long flashback. One function of flashbacks is to provide context for current events, such as when Dr. Mortimer talks to Dr. Watson about a woman whose initials are L. L., and Mortimer tells him the woman’s identity and recounts her harrowing experience. This background can give the reader a clue to the truth. However, due to the disordered timing of narration, it is also a challenge for the reader to piece together the information scattered throughout the text. But it is this non-linear narrative that makes the story confusing and adds to the sense of suspense.
Flashbacks also delay the revelation of the truth, allowing the reader to keep curiosity to the last minute. In this case, although the criminal has been punished, the motive of the crime remains unknown. It is not until the last chapter that Holmes reveals Stapleton’s plot in his Baker Street flat. Such flashbacks fill in the information gap in the previous text and maintain the tension of the text to the maximum extent. It can be said that the use of foretelling and flashbacks makes the novel more attractive.