I believe I was rather young when I read The Hound of the Baskervilles for the first time. Was I in fourth or fifth grade? I don't recall exactly when it was, but I'm fairly certain that I was inexperienced enough in Holmesian matters that I was unaware of the novel's status as a "placeholder" to keep fans happy between the killing off of Holmes in "The Final Problem" and his resurrection in "The Empty House." No, to that young boy, The Hound was an exciting adventure story, with much to recommend it to a my imagination: a killer hound, the misty moors, Holmes and Watson on the case to figure it all out. I even recall being very amused by the opening chapter featuring the deductions from Dr. Mortimer's walking stick. A classic Sherlock Holmes sitting room scene, if there ever was one.
Imagine my excitement, followed by my disappointment, when I was a freshman in high school, and I auditioned for the fall play of The Hound of the Baskervilles...and wasn't cast at all. I had hoped to play Holmes, and I think I ended up being the stage crew member who got to pull the curtain open and closed. The role of Holmes, of course, went to a senior who wasn't even all that good an actor. (I don't recall who ended up playing Watson.) I ended up being cast in a different murder mystery play in my sophomore year, one that was much inferior to The Hound of the Baskervilles.
As an adult, I've enjoyed The Hound of the Baskervilles several times, and it still brings back some of that youthful feeling of nostalgia, maybe even more than reading A Study in Scarlet or The Sign of Four. As a "placeholder" to keep the fans happy, I think it does an admirable job (even though, by many reports, it failed to keep them happy). It certainly seems to be the most sophisticated novel of Doyle's career, which is probably the reason that it's been so often published as a literary classic, quite apart from its place in the Holmes canon. And as far as film adaptations go, it's certainly the most popular. My personal favorite is the Hammer Films version of 1959, starring Peter Cushing as Holmes. Cushing is excellent, and you get the added bonus of the deep-voiced Christopher Lee as Henry Baskerville. The version produced by Granada TV starring Jeremy Brett is decent as well, while the Rathbone/Bruce film produced by 20th Century Fox in 1939 is disappointing to me. I'm sure other Sherlockians have their own favorites, where The Hound is concerned.
I'll close with a little quote from The Hound of the Baskervilles that is particularly memorable. Whenever I read it, I swear I can hear dramatic soundtrack music in my head.
I'm a stay-at-home dad, and Director of Music Ministries at a United Methodist Church in Mt. Juliet, TN. And a longtime fan of Sherlock Holmes.