Jason Coleman's Reviews > The Sign of Four

The Sign of Four by Arthur Conan Doyle
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's review
Sep 09, 10

A few weeks ago I was in Vegas for a surreal few days before crossing the Mojave and landing in Venice Beach. And what, in the middle of all this desert weirdness, did I suddenly decide I needed to read? Sherlock Holmes. That's right, for the first time since I was, what, twelve years old, I suddenly had this wholesome urge to follow Holmes and Watson as they scampered across heath and moor. I don't know what got into me. Anyway, I raced down to Book Soup on Sunset and, along with a Bolano and the new Amis, I bought The Sign of Four.

For about a chapter or two, I was very happy: I was getting my juvenile fix. I only need one about once or twice a decade. But in the end I just couldn't take it. I couldn't overlook how Doyle keeps throwing Holmes softballs. It's easy enough for Holmes to claim that you can deduce everything there is to know about a man by examining something he owns, when every article that comes his way is so loaded with clues it might as well have a driver's license duct-taped to it. Everywhere I look, I see the rich realities of life avoided, rather than met and conquered. (And just because this book has cocaine in it--yes, yes, this is the cocaine one--don't get excited. From Watson's horribly honorable courting of the virtuous heiress to the revelation that the murderer was a "savage"--a Pygmy, because Doyle needed a shrimp to get through the secret passage-- it's mostly pretty stuffy.)

You know, I can't read Chesterton or Wells any more, either. I think reading Borges ruined all these guys for me.

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