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Sherlock Holmes #2

The Sign of Four

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As a dense yellow fog swirls through the streets of London, a deep melancholy has descended on Sherlock Holmes, who sits in a cocaine-induced haze at 221B Baker Street. His mood is only lifted by a visit from a beautiful but distressed young woman - Mary Morstan, whose father vanished ten years before. Four years later she began to receive an exquisite gift every year: a large, lustrous pearl. Now she has had an intriguing invitation to meet her unknown benefactor and urges Holmes and Watson to accompany her. And in the ensuing investigation - which involves a wronged woman, a stolen hoard of Indian treasure, a wooden-legged ruffian, a helpful dog and a love affair - even the jaded Holmes is moved to exclaim, 'Isn't it gorgeous!'

--back cover

129 pages, Paperback

First published February 1, 1890

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About the author

Arthur Conan Doyle

12.7k books21.9k followers
Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle was born the third of ten siblings on 22 May 1859 in Edinburgh, Scotland. His father, Charles Altamont Doyle, a talented illustrator, was born in England of Irish descent, and his mother, born Mary Foley, was Irish. They were married in 1855.

Although he is now referred to as "Conan Doyle", the origin of this compound surname (if that is how he meant it to be understood) is uncertain. His baptism record in the registry of St Mary's Cathedral in Edinburgh gives 'Arthur Ignatius Conan' as his Christian name, and simply 'Doyle' as his surname. It also names Michael Conan as his godfather.

At the age of nine Conan Doyle was sent to the Roman Catholic Jesuit preparatory school, Hodder Place, Stonyhurst. He then went on to Stonyhurst College, leaving in 1875.

From 1876 to 1881 he studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh. This required that he provide periodic medical assistance in the towns of Aston (now a district of Birmingham) and Sheffield. While studying, Conan Doyle began writing short stories. His first published story appeared in "Chambers's Edinburgh Journal" before he was 20. Following his graduation, he was employed as a ship's doctor on the SS Mayumba during a voyage to the West African coast. He completed his doctorate on the subject of tabes dorsalis in 1885.

In 1885 Conan Doyle married Louisa (or Louise) Hawkins, known as "Touie". She suffered from tuberculosis and died on 4 July 1906. The following year he married Jean Elizabeth Leckie, whom he had first met and fallen in love with in 1897. Due to his sense of loyalty he had maintained a purely platonic relationship with Jean while his first wife was alive. Jean died in London on 27 June 1940.

Conan Doyle fathered five children. Two with his first wife—Mary Louise (28 January 1889 – 12 June 1976), and Arthur Alleyne Kingsley, known as Kingsley (15 November 1892 – 28 October 1918). With his second wife he had three children—Denis Percy Stewart (17 March 1909 – 9 March 1955), second husband in 1936 of Georgian Princess Nina Mdivani (circa 1910 – 19 February 1987; former sister-in-law of Barbara Hutton); Adrian Malcolm (19 November 1910–3 June 1970) and Jean Lena Annette (21 December 1912–18 November 1997).

Conan Doyle was found clutching his chest in the hall of Windlesham, his house in Crowborough, East Sussex, on 7 July 1930. He had died of a heart attack at age 71. His last words were directed toward his wife: "You are wonderful." The epitaph on his gravestone in the churchyard at Minstead in the New Forest, Hampshire, reads:


Conan Doyle's house, Undershaw, located in Hindhead, south of London, where he had lived for a decade, had been a hotel and restaurant between 1924 and 2004. It now stands empty while conservationists and Conan Doyle fans fight to preserve it.

A statue honours Conan Doyle at Crowborough Cross in Crowborough, where Conan Doyle lived for 23 years. There is also a statue of Sherlock Holmes in Picardy Place, Edinburgh, close to the house where Conan Doyle was born.

* Sherlock Holmes

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Profile Image for Federico DN.
402 reviews817 followers
July 7, 2023
Sherlock Holmes does it again.

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson receive the visit of a distressed lady, Miss Mary Morstan, who has received strange jewelry over the years and recently a troubling message from an unknown sender. Upon investigation the case shows to be more complex than originally thought, with loose ends regarding a missing father and a questionable inheritance; and when a citizen connected to the case is found dead, things escalate to a desperate pursuit of two elusive criminals, and a treasure box that is nowhere to be found.

A good sequel to the Sherlock Holmes series. Very interesting to know the origins of Miss Morstan .

This sequel is divided in twelve chapters, and like the first book, suffers from one major setback, which for me is the last part narrating the backstory of the perpetrator. In the first novel I found this move weird but engaging. adding great value to the story overall. On this occasion however the backstory felt really boring and dragging a lot, ruining what could’ve been a great ending and making reading the last part quite a chore. Jonathan Small is no Jefferson Hope, not by a longshot. On the positive side no mormons or dogs were harmed in the making of this installment.

Solid 2.5 rounded up for Watson and Miss Morstan. Sadly I think this could’ve been a 3 star or higher if only had ended in chapter 11. So if you go for it you may want to consider stop reading there. The last chapter, which is the longest I should add, is a chore and doesn’t really add anything to the story, except maybe the last paragraphs. A worthy sequel, although not enough to be recommendable.

Still remaining, the BBC series.

It’s public domain, you can find it HERE.

[1890] [129p] [Classics] [2.5] [Not Recommendable]
[Sherlock is a cocaine addict] [Watson & Morstan] [Wiggins & Irregulars] [Toby, the dog]

★★★★☆ 1. A Study in Scarlet [3.5]
★★★☆☆ 2. The Sign of Four [2.5]
★★★☆☆ 3. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
★★★★☆ 4. The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes [3.5]
★★★★☆ 5. The Hound of the Baskervilles


Sherlock Holmes lo hace de nuevo.

Sherlock Holmes y el Dr. Watson reciben la visita de una afligida dama, la señorita Mary Morstan, quien ha recibido extrañas joyas a lo largo de los años y recientemente una perturbadora carda de un emisor desconocido. Al investigar el caso se revela más complejo de lo que parecía originalmente, con algunos cabos sueltos sobre un padre desaparecido y una cuestionable herencia; y cuando un ciudadano conectado con el caso aparece muerto, las cosas escalan hacia una desesperada persecución de dos elusivos criminales, y una caja de tesoros imposible de encontrar.

Una buena secuela para la serie de Sherlock Holmes. Muy interesante conocer los orígenes de la Sta Morstan .

Esta secuela se divide en doce capítulos, y como el primer libro, sufre de un gran retraso, que para mí es la última parte narrando la historia trasfondo detrás del perpetrador. En la primera novela hallé esta movida extraña pero atrapante, añadiendo dentro de todo mucho valor a la historia. En esta ocasión sin embargo el trasfondo se sintió muy aburrido y arrastrando un montón, arruinando lo que podría haber sido un genial final y haciendo leer la última parte una verdadera molestia. Jonathan Small no es un Jefferson Hope, ni por asomo. En un lado positivo ningún mormón o perro fueron lastimados en la creación de esta entrega.

Sólido 2.5 redondeado para arriba por Watson y Sta Morstan. Lamentablemente creo que esto podría haber sido un 3 estrellas o más si tan sólo hubiera terminado en el capítulo 11. Así que si vas por esto tal vez quieras considerar terminar de leer ahí. El capítulo final, que es el más extenso, es una molestia y realmente añade poco y nada a la historia, excepto tal vez por los últimos párrafos. Una secuela valiosa, aunque no lo suficiente para ser recomendable.

Queda pendiente, la serie de BBC.

Es dominio público, lo pueden encontrar ACA.

[1890] [129p] [Clásicos] [2.5] [No Recomendable]
[Sherlock es adicto a la cocaína] [Watson & Morstan] [Wiggins & Irregulares] [Toby, el perro]
Profile Image for Stephen.
1,516 reviews11.2k followers
May 31, 2012
Tsk, Tsk, Tsk...apparently that’s NOT tobacco Sherlock Holmes is smoking.
You have to love the daring Sir Arthur displayed in this novel vis-à-vis his iconic detective. How many writers would have the chutzpah to risk tarnishing the mystique of their signature creation by depicting him shooting cocaine as a cure for boredom?
Sherlock Holmes took his bottle from the corner of the mantelpiece and his hypodermic syringe from its neat morocco case. With his long, white, nervous fingers he adjusted the delicate needle, and rolled back his left shirt-cuff. For some little time his eyes rested thoughtfully upon the sinewy forearm and wrist all dotted and scarred with innumerable puncture-marks. Finally, he thrust the sharp point home, pressed down the tiny piston, and sank back into the velvet-lined arm-chair with a long sigh of satisfaction.
Now that is what I call an opening paragraph. Well played, Mr. Doyle.

I’m a big fan of the Sherlock Holmes stories, and one of my favorite aspects of the stories, odd as it might sound, is how thoroughly unlikable Holmes is. Let’s face it, the man is an asshole. He’s cold, callous, arrogant, misanthropic, consumed with his own needs, and sociopathic in his lack of empathy for others. If it were not for his unparalleled gifts for observation and deduction, there would be nothing to recommend him as a person.

And that is precisely what makes him so interesting and so much fun to read about. He comes across as more anti-hero than hero, despite the fact that he is not generally classified as such. I would argue that he certainly fits under that label, especially now that we can add junkie to his list of flaws. (Incidentally, suddenly casting Robert Downey, Jr. in the role of Holmes makes a whole lot more sense.
…Just kidding).

Anyway, back to the story…

In addition to introducing readers to the monkey on Sherlock’s back, this novel’s also noteworthy for being the first appearance of Mary Marston, the beautiful young woman who would go on to be Mr. Watson's beard wife. Mary calls on Holmes and entices him out of his melancholy with the promise of a challenging mystery involving the strange disappearance of her father many years before. Brightened by the prospect of being able to employ his prodigious mental faculties, Holmes accepts...and the game is, once more, afoot.

What ensues is a complex, multi-layered plot that, while not my favorite of the Holmes mysteries, was solid enough to keep my interest. Starting with nothing but a few flimsy clues, a letter from an anonymous benefactor, and a story with large chunks in it, Holmes proceeds to works his usual magic and mesmerizes all concerned with a dazzling display of crime-solving.

Of course.

Along the way, Doyle weaves into the narrative an eclectic assortment of supporting players for Holmes and Watson encounter, including:

a wooden-legged villain,
a killer with baby feet,
a group of criminal with a secret pact,
a pair of corrupt prison guards,
the Baker Street Irregulars,
aboriginal tribesmen with bad attitudes, and
a whole host of dead bodies.

Overall, a solid Holmes mystery with some classic moments of Sherlockian lore, including the first utterance of the famous truism, "when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” In comparison to the other two Holmes novels I've read, I didn’t like this quite as much as The Valley of Fear or A Study in Scarlet. The main reason for this is simply that I found the mysteries in the former books more appealing. Still, there is a lot to like here and Holmes manages to to unload quite a few notable quotables.
He smiled gently. ‘It is of the first importance,’ he said, ‘not to allow your judgment to be biased by personal qualities. A client is to me a mere unit, a factor in a problem. The emotional qualities are antagonistic to clear reasoning. I assure you that the most winning woman I ever knew was hanged for poisoning three little children for their insurance-money, and the most repellant man of my acquaintance is a philanthropist who has spent nearly a quarter of a million upon the London poor.’
As I wrap this up, I want to give a final kudo to Doyle for the very end of the novel. In my opinion, it could not have been written better and I almost bumped the whole novel up to 4 stars based on it alone. Even though it doesn’t give away any plot information, I'm still going to hide it behind a spoiler tag since it includes the final lines of the novel.

In a word…Perfect.

3.5 stars. Recommended.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews50 followers
October 9, 2021
The Sign of Four = The Sign of the Four (Sherlock Holmes #2), Arthur Conan Doyle

The Sign of the Four (1890), also called The Sign of Four, is the second novel featuring Sherlock Holmes written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Doyle wrote four novels and 56 short stories featuring the fictional detective.

The story is set in 1888. The Sign of the Four has a complex plot involving service in India, the Indian Rebellion of 1857, a stolen treasure, and a secret pact among four convicts ("the Four" of the title) and two corrupt prison guards.

It presents the detective's drug habit and humanizes him in a way that had not been done in the preceding novel, A Study in Scarlet (1887).

It also introduces Doctor Watson's future wife, Mary Morstan.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش ماه ژانویه سال 1999میلادی

عنوان: نشانه چهار؛ نویسنده: آرتور کانن ��ویل؛ مترجم: مژده دقیقی؛ تهران، شهر کتاب هرمس ( کارآگاه )؛ 1378؛ در سیزده و در164ص؛ شابک9646641857؛ چاپ دوم 1385؛ چاپ چهارم 1391؛ شابک 9789646641853؛ چاپ پنجم 1392؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان بریتانیا - سده 19م

داستان «نشانه چهار» همراه با داستان «دره وحشت»؛ در 434ص از همین مترجم در همین انتشارانی در سال 1388؛ با شابک9789643636197؛ نیز چاپ شده است

نشانه چهار: دومین داستان بلند با شخصیت «شرلوک هولمز» است؛ این داستان سه سال پس از کتاب «اتود در قرمز لاکی»، چاپ شده است؛ به نوشته ی «گراهام گرین»، «نشانه چهار» نخستین بار، در ماه فوریه 1890میلادی، در نشریه ی «لیپینکات»، منتشر شد، و در همان سال، به صورت کتاب نیز به چاپ رسید؛ این کتاب، دومین رخدادنامه‌ ای است، که دکتر «واتسون» منتشر می‌کند، و عنوان فرعی آن، در نشریه «مشکل شولتوها» بود، و بعدها برای تبدیل به رمان، فصل‌بندی شد

نشانه چهار دو داستان است؛ داستان نخست: شرح پژوهش پیچیده ی «هولمز»، درباره ی مرگ «بارتولومیو شولتوو»، و به دنبال آن سرقت گنجینه ی «آگرا» است؛

داستان دوم داستانی است عاشقانه، بین «واتسن» و موکل «هولمز»، «مری مورستن»؛

چکیده ی این داستان: دوشیزه «مری مورستن»، هر سال از راه پست، مروارید درشتی دریافت می‌کند، که هیچ سر نخی، در مورد فرستنده اش، وجود ندارد؛ وقتی این فرستنده ی اسرارآمیز، از او تقاضای دیدار می‌کند، «هولمز» و «واتسن» هم، وارد ماجرا می‌شوند؛ مرگی وحشتناک، و گنجینه‌ ای که ناپدید شده، به تعقیبی جانانه در خیابان‌ها، به هنگام سپیده دم، و سپس در طول رودخانه ی «تیمز» منتهی می‌شود...؛ «گراهام گرین» درباره ی این داستان همچنین گفته «دهساله بودم که نشانه چهار را خواندم، آن شب تاریک در سرای پاندیچری در نوروود، هرگز از ذهنم محو نخواهد شد»؛

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 12/12/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 16/07/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Anne.
4,066 reviews69.5k followers
April 1, 2023
Oh, Holmes!
I still love you, but this was...not your best book, buddy.


Hmm. Ok, now I remember why I never really read the full-length Sherlock stories very much, and usually preferred to stick with the shorties.
This was kinda...*cough* dull. And really hard to get through. Plus, (and I know it was written in a different era) it was pretty cringe-worthy when dealing with race. Yep. Pretty much anyone who wasn't white was a snarling savage or a faithful servant.
So, yeah. Not very entertaining to read about that sort of thing at all.


Anyway, the main thing that makes this book noteworthy for fans is that this is where Watson Falls In Luuuuurve.


Was it a good love story, you ask?
Well, not particularly. But at least Watson seemed to admire Mary as a person, and not think of her as some sort of an arm decoration.
So, yes, as backward as Doyle is when it comes to race, he's at least got an itty-bitty lick of sense when it comes to women. And when Holmes makes derogatory statements about women & love, Watson gallantly defends us womenfolk with grunts of disapproval.


I believe this was written when Doyle was sick and tired of writing about Sherlock, and it shows. Sherly is almost as obnoxious as he can possibly be portrayed while still being considered the hero of the story. I mean, the first scene describes his cocaine habit which isn't likely to endear him to many people. Even back in the day, before Nancy Reagan got her hooks into folks, a drug habit wouldn't have been considered an especially attractive quality.


Beyond that, the mystery is just a bit far-fetched, even for a Sherlock story. And maybe that's another reason I prefer the shorts? While they're still fantastical, they're more street-level stories. OR maybe they're not, and I'm just remembering them with rose colored glasses...


In the end, I felt like Holmes was really unlikable in this one, the mystery was too convoluted and over the top, and the story itself just went on too long. I can't bring myself to hate the book or the characters, so I guess I'll check out one of the short stories to see if I can bring back that lovin' feeling.


Buddy Read with some Non-Crunchy friends.
Profile Image for Maureen .
1,449 reviews7,061 followers
March 25, 2021
*3.5 stars *

Not as suspenseful as some of the other Sherlock Holmes, but a fun read nevertheless.
Profile Image for Henry Avila.
469 reviews3,258 followers
September 26, 2019
Sherlock Holmes is bored, he hasn't had a new interesting case in quite a while, no big deal you say? It is if the man is the notorious self- destructive detective the best whoever was, (or will be) as his arm will clearly reveal....too many injections of mind - numbing drugs can testify to this horrible fact, the ugly scars. The worried Dr. Watson fears for the health of his best friend...unable to prevent it, he knows Holmes brain needs constant stimulation otherwise, the inevitable decline into ennui, not moving in the chair, staying in his room unable to function as a human being. A sight the kind-heart Watson cannot endure. At last a strange mystery brought by a young attractive woman , escorted by the tolerant landlady Mrs. Hudson; Miss Mary Morstan causes Sherlock to move his limbs, the powerful brain begins turning faster and faster we have liftoff , soaring into the unknown universe from the seedy side , an unlimited territory... yes the land of the criminals, their greed, nothing is beyond the grasp of those who want wealth without working very hard to accomplish this goal, why should they if only a little killing and stealing will get them this.... Even Watson feels happy, he likes the nervous lady. The Sign of Four begins in actuality in colonial India, convicts in a hellish penal colony in the remote Andaman Islands, far from the Indian coast, the leader of a group of these not very respectable men, a white man and three natives disclose information of hidden treasure buried in a distant fort. Stolen from a rich nobleman, during the time of the vast Indian uprising against British rule, in the 19th century, (1857 ) the owner of these trinkets involved in the late rebellion flees for his life when it ..the spirit of freedom is crushed. Leaving all the beautiful jewels and exquisite pearls , orphans. He that digs them up shall become fabulously rich, nobody except the gang knows where . A deal between the convicts and two English officers are solemnly pledged, still there's no honor among thieves as the proverb states so well. That is where our friend the eager, Holmes arrives on the scene, Mary who tells the story the little she knows, is the daughter of one of the army officers that struck the bad bargain , as time will show, nevertheless not all gentlemen are honest. This will give fans of the Baker Street two, (not to forget the irregulars) crime fighters a good read... Plus an exciting, surreal trip down the Thames ...And a nice puzzle to solve...After all Sherlock Holmes is the master...
Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.8k followers
August 19, 2020
“How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?”


Only a week after reading the far more memorable Hound of the Baskervilles, I could barely remember what “The Sign of Four” was about. It's mostly pleasant but forgettable.

In Sherlock Holmes' second outing with Dr. Watson, Sherlock explains that he needs to shoot up cocaine and morphine to add spice to his life (apparently these were legal drugs at the time). Watson chastises Sherlock (unsuccessfully) for taking chances with his mind, and then distracts him with a question about his old pocket watch. Sherlock, true to form, dazzles the good Dr. Watson once again with his deductions. But this only occupies them for a few minutes.

Luckily for everyone except Holmes' drug supplier, Miss Mary Morstan arrives on the doorsteps of 221B Baker Street with a better distraction: a puzzle about a decade-long missing father and a mysterious annual gift of valuable pearls that she's been receiving from an unknown source for the past six years. Could these two mysteries possibly be related?

Holmes is intrigued; Watson is in instalove.

This is a reasonably good Sherlock Holmes novella, marred by some period racism toward Africans and a too-lengthy flashback toward the end that explains the mystery.

And now I have to go rewatch the Sherlock episode "The Sign of Three" and see what cool connections may exist to the plot of this book.


September 2015 buddy read with the Pantsless Crunchy Bunch.
Profile Image for Adrian.
576 reviews209 followers
December 27, 2020
2nd Read here on GR December 2020
So this is my second read here on GR. And this is for The English Mysteries Group, group read of all Sherlock Holmes Novels and short stories , run by me.

Hmm, I am thinking very carefully as to whether I should bump this up to 5 stars rather 4, maybe next read if I still fell the same, we shall see.
This books shows the destructive path that Holmes had already embarked upon, when his mind was not occupied by a case to challenge his mind. It also demonstrates just how amazing his deductive powers were becoming, and there was more to come.
In addition to a wonderful story involving a wronged woman, 2 strange brothers, an Indian mutiny connection, 4 robbers and murderers, a boat chase, a wonderful hound, convicts and a native from the Andaman islands, we also get to see the more romantic side of Dr John Watson.
Holmes demonstrates every deductive power he has to bring the perpetrators to justice, following every clue he can, utilising all his resources, including the Baker Street Irregulars (Rusty Mc ? ) to track the wooden legged man across Victorian london, by cab and by steamer.
Car chases in movies, pah. Just give me Holmes and Watson speeding down river in a steamer after the robbers, dodging poisoned darts to save the day.
Hmms, sounds 5 stars to me, we shall see.

1st Read here on GR March 2014
Well I read this in 2014 when I was first on GR and wasn't writing many reviews, so I thought I would remedy the situation.

If ever I was going on Mastermind, my specialist subject would either be "Sherlock Holmes" or "Carry On Films" (I know very different but both reminiscent of my formative years :) )

This is therefore one of my favourite books, not quite a 5 star but very nearly. It is a great story, well woven, with Sherlock at his best ably assisted by the indomitable Watson. The descriptions of Victorian London are "painted" so vividly one can feel the smog on your face and hear the hooves of the horses pulling the dashing taxis as they rush across town in pursuit of the perpetrator.

I've read all the Sherlock Holmes novels and short stories many times and have started investigating other authors. We shall see......
Profile Image for Luís.
1,950 reviews615 followers
October 12, 2022
While Sherlock Holmes is particularly idle and gloomy in melancholy, a mysterious new affair presents itself to him; Miss Mary Morstan comes to meet him to explain to him her situation problem: his father, Major Morstan, has disappeared in London under mysterious conditions and she receives, every year, a superb pearl of extreme value without her knowing the sender. However, she received a message giving her an appointment near a London theatre to make his revelations about these mysterious pearls and her father. She must come with two friends. Sherlock Holmes and Watson will escort him.

A story of revenge, set in the troubled historical context of colonial India, is not always easy to follow but proves captivating from start to finish.
In this novel, we discover a little more of Sherlock Holmes's personality, particularly the alternation of phases of deep depression and phases of extreme activity, that is to say, a behaviour that can recall the traits of manic-depressive psychosis. Also, we learn about his cocaine dependence between the two surveys, especially when he is idle.
This book is the second adventure of the Sherlock Holmes and Watson couple, in which Watson discovers his wife in the person of Miss Mary Morstan.
Finally, we meet Toby, a mongrel dog with a mainly developed flair.
Profile Image for Jeff .
912 reviews710 followers
November 4, 2015
If you got bad news
You want to kick them blues
When your day is done and you got to run
If your thing is gone and you want to ride on
Don't forget this fact
You can't get back

Remind me again what you’re singing about, J.J. Cale?

Doyle doesn’t waste any time in introducing Holmes cocaine addiction. Something about keeping the grey matter active when he’s got nothing better to do than be annoying.

“Hey Sherlock, the first step is to admit you have a problem.”

“Hi, I’m Sherlock and I’m an insufferable pedantic butt head, who uses a seven percent solution of cocaine to clear my head. These donuts, purchased at the corner bakery on Bond Street are from yesterday and not only stale but contain mouse droppings and whoever brewed the coffee used one tablespoon too many. That man in the back row is sleeping with a woman (not your wife) who smuggles chinchillas, that man sitting beside him had liver and onions for dinner, the woman beside him recently visited Nepal and has a rubber fetish, and this woman in the front row breeds hippos.”

“Um, thanks for sharing (?)…”

We’re introduced to Holmes ragamuffin teen brigade, Watson falls in love (Ha!), we have evil pygmies using blow dart guns, a pegged leg dude bent on revenge, mega-betrayals, a locked door mystery, a fairly cool chase scene and a digression which isn’t half as annoying as the one from A Study in Scarlet.

A step up from A Study in Scarlet and a truer more familiar Holmes is offered here, still it took me over a week to get through a little over a hundred pages.

If Holmes really wants to clear his mind, he should try going pantsless, just like the group who I buddy read this book with.
Profile Image for Kemper.
1,390 reviews6,978 followers
November 7, 2010
Despite being a huge crime/mystery reader, I’ve never been a big fan of the Sherlock Holmes stories. After recently reading A Study in Scarlet and now The Sign of Four, I realize that it’s not me to blame. It’s Holmes. He’s just too much of an obnoxious show-off for me to like. Add in some Victorian-era English arrogance, and I feel like flipping off any Holmes novel I see on the shelf when browsing a mystery section in a bookstore.

Holmes and his full-time professional kiss-ass Watson get hired by a young lady who has been receiving expensive pearls anonymously and now has a mysterious request to meet someone regarding the jewels. Accompanying the woman, Holmes and Watson soon get wrapped up in murder involving a wooden legged man, a savage cannibal and a hidden treasure. Oh, and Watson stops heaping compliments on Holmes long enough to fall head over heels for the girl.

I don’t need a likeable main character to enjoy a story. In fact, someone who is brilliant but arrogant and abrasive can be a very interesting if done right. (See Lisbeth Salander in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo for a recent example.) I’m a little surprised at how much I found myself disliking Holmes. It’s not like I didn’t know he was an aloof logic junkie.

But what bugs me about him is the whole attitude he has about claiming that his methods are ‘simplicity itself’ while still doing everything he can to milk every moment and make everyone marvel at his amazing talents. He can’t let Watson go to the post office without turning it into a showcase for his deductive reasoning, but once Holmes has the doctor gushing about his brilliance, he just coldly dismisses it as simple logic. Asshole.

I did enjoy the fact that this is the one that established the idea that Holmes would inject a liquid form of cocaine into his veins when he got bored and reaches for the syringe the second the case is over. It made him a little more human and relatable. And Watson shows his cutting edge medical skills by cautioning Holmes that the coke might be unhealthy. Maybe even habit forming. That Watson is a helluva doctor.
Profile Image for Delee.
243 reviews1,137 followers
October 5, 2015

September buddy-read with The Non-Crunchy Classics Funky Bunch.

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Sex, Marry, Kill...

For some reason when reading THE SIGN OF FOUR- that fun- little, messed up game- kept popping into my head.

Maybe...partly...because this is the book that Watson falls in loooooove...and partly because a lot of my fellow buddy readers felt like Holmes was a complete a-hole in this installment of the series.

It made me think- what exactly I swooned about regarding- Mr. Holmes since my youth? Would he really be my match in the real world? Sadly- no, he wouldn't.

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I don't mind that Sherlock toots his own horn now and again (more again and again really)- and I find his arrogance tolerable. He can back it up. He is amazing and smarter than the average bear! It's stupid idiots that boast how wonderful they are and have noooooo idea what they are talking about- that bother me.

Like THAT guy!

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...but let's go back to someone like that in a minute- and talk about the book shall we?

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1888 London-

Mary Morstan- comes with two puzzles for Holmes. The first is the disappearance of her father. The second is about the mysterious gifts she has been receiving over the years.

Holmes in his boredom, gladly takes the case- and Watson- trails along for the ride..and becomes quite smitten with their client.

A locked room- footsteps in the dirt...a one legged man...a rope...a poison dart, and a plethora of racist babble- make up for an interesting mystery- if you ignore the racist babble. And believe me there is A LOT OF IT.

I really liked THE SIGN OF FOUR until the last couple of chapters- after it was solved and the killer speaks...it dragged and dragged for me.

Soooo back to Sex, Marry, kill???

It is a no brainer really...

Sherlock: Yes, he is beautiful, and smart, and mysteriously sexy- but there is a reason he holds people at an arms length- he is not that likable- and even HE is aware of it.


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Watson: Soooo the marrying kind. He respects women, he is quietly funny and smart. Noooo he may not be obviously sexy- but he is. The fact- that even though he is a better man, he is fine with taking a back seat over and over again- THAT makes this man superior in every way..and a man that will be in it for the long haul.


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...and even though he isn't mentioned in this novel- who is left???

Moriarty: It goes without saying....


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Profile Image for Alejandro.
1,142 reviews3,566 followers
March 28, 2018
Greed is murderous!

This is the second book and also the second novel-length by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle about the character of Sherlock Holmes


The first thing that shocked me when I read the very first time this book was reading that Sherlock Holmes was using cocaine!

Certainly, things were quite different in London, 1890!

In the book is explained that Holmes' mind is so thirsty of being occupied in an unsolved mystery that when cases are absent, he needs cocaine to keep his mind sedated and not getting stressed out of not having something to deduce.

Good Doctor Watson complained about the cocaine since Holmes is abusing of it, so at least there's that.

Good thing that a mysterious case soon comes to 221B Baker Street, with Mary Morstan, their new client, who's asking for assistance, since she needs to attend to a mysterious appointment and since she was allowed to be accompanied by two persons (as long as they won't be police).

Mary Morstan is a humble governess that some years after the mysterious dissapearance of her father, she has been receiving for 6 years a valuable pearl per year, and now she got a message telling her that she will be informed about what happened with her father.

The game is on again!


The Baker Street irregulars returned to this novel and their priceless skills to go around London without being noticed, but also a new assett for Sherlock Holmes is introduced with Toby, a dog which is way useful to follow scents and tracks.

Also, another Scotland Yard detective is introduced: Athelney Jones (that I personally think that since in A Study in Scarlet (the previous novel) were already introduced Lestrade and Gregson, I don't know why bother to keep inventing more police inspectors).

Sherlock Holmes is armed with a pistol in this adventure, that I think that I'm not used to think of Holmes of carrying guns, I believe that it's something more proper for Dr. Watson that was a military medic.

Moreover, without spoiling, Dr. John Watson won't be the same after this adventure! But don't worry isn't something bad!

Profile Image for Carmen.
2,067 reviews1,906 followers
April 18, 2017
"My mind," he said, "rebels at stagnation. Give me problems, give me work, give me the most abstruse cryptogram, or the most intricate analysis, and I am in my own proper atmosphere. I can dispense then with artificial stimulants. But I abhor the daily routine of existence. I crave for mental exaltation. That is why I have chosen my own particular profession, or rather created it. I am the only one in the world."

The second Sherlock Holmes book opens and closes with cocaine.

For some little time his eyes rested thoughtfully upon the sinewy forearm and wrist, all dotted and scarred with innumerable puncture marks. Finally, he thrust the sharp point home, pressed down the tiny piston, and sank back into the velvet-lined armchair with a long sigh of satisfaction.

Watson disapproves of Sherlock's nasty seven-percent solution, but our hero just finds life so boring.

"Hence the cocaine. I cannot live without brainwork. What else is there to live for? Stand at the window here. Was ever such a dreary, dismal, unprofitable world? See how the yellow fog swirls down the street and drifts across the dun-coloured houses. Would could be more hopelessly prosaic and material? What is the use of having powers, Doctor, when one has no field upon which to exert them? Crime is commonplace, existence is commonplace, and no qualities save those which are commonplace have any function upon earth."

Nowadays we would recognize Holmes's wild mood swings - which are mentioned quite frequently in this novel - as bipolar disorder or some other variant of mood disorder.

Watson sweetly offers a puzzle to Holmes (a watch) in order to cheer him up.

"Would you think me impertinent if I were to put your theories to a more severe test?"

"On the contrary," he answered, "it would prevent me from taking a second dose of cocaine. I should be delighted to look into any problem which you might submit to me."

Or perhaps not so sweetly.

I handed him over the watch with some slight feeling of amusement in my heart, for the test was, as I thought, an impossible one, and I intended it as a lesson against the somewhat dogmatic tone which he occasionally assumed.

However, after this simple puzzle is solved, it seems nothing is in Sherlock's immediate future but more cocaine. Luckily for all involved, a beautiful young woman (27) comes to the door, pleading with Sherlock for help with a very mysterious case involving her missing father and some gorgeous pearls. She seems hopeful that the dashing veteran Watson will accompany Sherlock on her case.

"But would he come?" she asked with something appealing in her voice and expression.

"I shall be proud and happy," I said fervently, "if I can be of any service."

Mmmmmm-hmmmmmm, I just bet you would, Watson - you sly dog! LOL I'm kidding, of course. Watson is about as far from a sly dog as you can get. He is such a good and honorable man in this novel he was starting to get me a little bit excited! Honorable and good men who are patient and kind make my heart beat faster.

This gem of a novel yields some amazing benefits for the reader.

1.) The sweet and budding friendship between Sherlock and John. Oftentimes Sherlock is portrayed as a cold son of a gun.

"What a very attractive woman!" I exclaimed, turning to my companion.

He had lit his pipe again and was leaning back with drooping eyelids. "Is she?" he said languidly. "I did not observe."

"You really are an automaton - a calculating machine," I cried. "There is something positively inhuman in you at times."

But nothing could be farther from the truth. Sherlock Holmes does his best to attempt to squash his emotions,

"But love is an emotional thing, and whatever is emotional is opposed to true cold reason which I place above all things. I should never marry myself, lest I bias my judgment."

...but we all know that he is a loving and kind person.

Don't believe me? Look at how kind and considerate he is to his friend Watson in this book.

When about to track down a murderer:

"Are you game for a six-mile trudge, Watson?"

"Certainly," I answered.

"Your leg will stand it?"

"Oh, yes."

Sherlock isn't averse to lulling Watson asleep with some lullabies.

"Lie down there on the sofa and see if I can put you to sleep."

He took up his violin from the corner, and as I stretched myself out he began to play some low, dreamy, melodious air - his own, no doubt, for he had a remarkable gift for improvisation. I have a vague remembrance of his gaunt limbs, his earnest face and the rise and fall of his bow.

Not to mention Sherlock's dry sense of humor and belly-laughs he shares with his best friend.

Sherlock Holmes and I looked blankly at each other and then burst simultaneously into an uncontrollable fit of laughter.

He loves having a friend and a confederate. Sherlock is a social creature, like the vast majority of humans.

"Isn't it gorgeous!" said Holmes, grinning over his coffee cup. "What do you think of it?"


Now I am going to add a racism warning here: Doyle is going to malign black people, Sikhs, Hindus, Arabs... probably other people that I am forgetting right now. And of course, women.

"I would not tell them too much," said Holmes. "Women are never to be entirely trusted - not the best of them."

I did not pause to argue over this atrocious sentiment.

You're warned.

Tl;dr - This amazing novel is not only a classic but a pleasure to read. Doyle is a straightforward and clear writer. The subject matter is interesting, and the plot is fast-paced. With staunch friendship, blossoming romance, and lost treasure - you can't ask for much more from a mystery novel. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Francesc.
460 reviews223 followers
December 19, 2020
Estoy poniendo orden en mis lecturas de Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Después de "Estudio en escarlata", viene "El signo de los cuatro".
Interesante segundo capítulo de las historias de esta pareja.
Un libro muy entretenido, muy recomendable para los amantes del Sr. Holmes y del Dr. Watson.

I am putting order in my readings of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
After "A Study in Scarlet," comes "The sign of four".
Interesting second chapter of this couple's stories.
A very entertaining book, highly recommended for lovers of Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson.
Profile Image for James Tivendale.
318 reviews1,345 followers
January 24, 2019
The narrative begins with a very bored Sherlock Holmes at 221b Baker Street. With nothing to focus his incredible powers of deduction on at the present time, he decides to spend his days injecting a seven-percent-solution of cocaine. Conveniently a client with a particularly peculiar and complex case appears that very day. The potential customer, Miss Marstan, who wishes to employ the world's only consulting detective explains the scenario. On the 4th of May for the last six years, she has received a rare and valuable pearl in the post. However, recently she has received an anonymous note from the sender of the jewels saying that they would like to arrange a meeting. She asks Holmes' advice regarding what she should do. Holmes, no longer depressed and bored seems overtaken by a burst of energy and states that himself and Watson will accompany her to the meeting and hopefully shed light on these untypical events.

Once again written in the guise of Dr. Watson's first-person perspective, The Sign of Four is my second favourite of Conan Doyle's four full-length Sherlock Holmes stories. A Study in Scarlet was a good introduction but like many readers, I didn't like the second half of that tale as it didn't focus on everybody's favourite master of deduction. In my opinion, Conan Doyle took everything that worked in that novel, structured it better, composed a superior story, and had some more colourful characters. It also mentions certain elements that build the Sherlock character and his working environment that people nowadays take for granted as being well-known facts about the character. Such as that he was an exceptional boxer, a highly adept violin player and a master of disguise. The Sign of Four also introduces Holmes' youthful detective squad The Baker Street Irregulars and a bloodhound Toby who has an amazing sense of smell. In fact, Holmes states "I would rather have Toby's help than that of the whole detective force of London."

It was never going to be as simple as Holmes, Watson, and Miss Marston meeting up with the letter's sender and a reasonable explanation being given regarding the pearls. Of course not. Holmes and Watson soon find themselves trying to figure out the facts behind a locked-door murder. Sherlock often assists the police in such cases and throughout this tale, the Detective in question is Alatheny Jones. Jones is presented as foolish although very excitable, often jumping to rash conclusions that we as readers know are incorrect as Holmes and Watson have just been unraveling the facts and tracked the highly probable sequence of events beforehand. Although he is presented as imprudent and maybe even half-witted he is very likable and Holmes patience with him is a nice touch. He is nothing like the Alatheny Jones that he would later become in Anthony Horowitz's Moriarty where he presents deduction skills that rival those of Sherlock.

"When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."

The Sign of Four is an intriguing and exciting entry in the Sherlock Holmes canon. It's often thrilling, always detailed and features some amazing set pieces such as a steamboat chase across the River Thames. One of my favourite aspects of these detective classics is when Holmes leaves Watson to complete an unknown mission and like the Doctor, us readers are completely left in the dark as to what the sleuth is up to, which works to heighten the emotions felt when it is revealed what he was doing and how it has impacted or benefitted the case. Also, like many of these stories, but I think this was the first time it was implemented in the chronological order of the tales releases, the case is often solved before the end of the book. At this point, Holmes will interview the perpetrator to get the full story. During these instances when you see the other perspective presented, the motives, objectives and past struggles, you may find yourself pitying and feeling sorry for a character who has been nothing but a villain through the whole story. The Sherlock Holmes full-lengths, barring this one and The Hound of the Baskervilles pale in comparison to many of the short stories but to say that Conan Doyle was perfecting the formula with this entry, I'm happy to call it a classic work of literature and a mystery masterpiece.

And at the end, when Holmes is asked what now remains for him he replies:
"For me," said Sherlock Holmes, "there still remains the cocaine bottle."
Profile Image for Dan Schwent.
3,005 reviews10.6k followers
September 2, 2015
Sherlock Holmes sets aside his cocaine addiction for a case. A young woman has been receiving pearls in the mail once a year for four years and now has a chance to meet her mysterious benefactor. Can Holmes and Watson figure out what's really going on without being ensnared in a web of deceit and murder?

I read this with those scamps in the Non-crunchy Cool Classics group.

So, Sherlock Holmes. For years, Holmes has been akin to H.P. Lovecraft for me in that I'm a much bigger fan of the works they inspired than the original works. When Jeff and his cohorts decided to read The Sign of Four in September, who was I to resist? After all, Sherlock is one kick ass show...

Yeah, I'm still not a tremendous Sherlock Holmes fan. I understand that Arthur Conan Doyle was largely inventing the genre as he went but the longer Holmes stories always seem unnecessarily convoluted. Watson is a sycophant with very little personality of his own and Holmes is an ass, although not in an entertaining Benedict Cumberbatch sort of way.

Still, I didn't hate it. It was interesting to see how the detective fiction genre has evolved over time. I wasn't expecting the pulpy boat chase near the end and Holmes actually had a bit more dimension to him than I remember.

Due to its place in the genre and because I couldn't bring myself to actually dislike it, I'm giving this a hard-earned three out of five stars.
Profile Image for carol..
1,576 reviews8,241 followers
January 20, 2019
Sherlock has been enjoying a Hollywood resurgence. That's not what lead me to pick this up, however. Vaguely headachey, I needed a reading distraction, and the appropriate story in these kinds of situations is a touchy one. I was finishing Winter Tide, but didn't want to lose my appreciation of it's cool and misty beauty. Non-fiction was clearly out. I could  attack the last Faith Hunter book, but I had the feeling that irritation would push into pain faster than I could say, 'Excederin.' A mystery then, a weak one that demanded little and whose writing might lull rather than engage. The Connolly I had? Absolutely not. A Christie? Nah; the ones I had seemed too fresh. Wait--next to Christie was Doyle. Ah, perfect.

I mean, 'perfect' in the sense of a half-hearted, sleepy-couch read. I thought the tale well told, and interesting in a historic kind of way. I remembered, reading, that Watson drove me a bit batty when I read before, with his assumptions and judging. He doubtfully questions Holmes as to how he knows something, and when Holmes proves his deduction and observation powers by telling Watson about his gold watch, Watson gets all pissy and pouty. So unsympathetic. And I still don't know why anyone makes a deal at all about Holmes' drug use. He explains his using here, and it actually makes perfect sense to me. Of course, I happen to know all about consequences, like the cardiac damage and the brain rewiring and the gradual replacement of drugs for emotional connections, but that's real life and this is a book. Yet many of the reviews I looked at mention this. Are we really scandalized still over a book from 1890?

Well, sort of, because Conan Doyle pulls in a--SPOILER, cripes--First, offensive. Second, lame. That's like the 19th century equivalent of using a schizophrenic serial killer. There's also loads of what we'd now call racial profiling, only wrapped up in that darling Victorian-era physiognomy, complete with pejorative adjectives. I mean, none of that is surprising, and this is like, 130 years ago, so it's not like I'm offended--which is clearly a privilege, right?--but at this point, I'm not mad, just extra tired and a little bored, like, 'seriously?' Why are we going to Doyle for source material, when he was so clearly cribbing from adventure stories from when he was a kid? Although, this was only his second book, so I should cut him a break. Plus, he was just trying to make some dough to pay off the bills, which is totally fair.

What was ethically interesting to me is that Holmes and Watson seem convinced that a mysterious treasure belongs to the daughter of a British major who was a prison warden and another major who all served in India. I was immediately stuck while reading that, oh, sure, the majors came by the treasure honestly. It's clearly evil deeds coming back to bite them in the butt. But they act like that's a thing.

Anyway, it's interesting watching Holmes retrace the crime, although mostly with the help of Toby, a talented scent hound. It's also interesting seeing the notes of the legend, including one of his famous costume changes, research on cigarette ash, the Baker Street Irregulars, and a slightly-bumbling-but-appreciative London detective to take the credit.

Overall, I'd say at the moment, a 2.5 shots kind of book. Interesting in a historical way, and probably as a starting point of detective fiction--here are where your tropes begin, authors--but seriously, painfully dated. And not because of the cocaine.
Profile Image for Henk.
875 reviews
April 7, 2022
Definitely enjoyable but feels more dated than the other Sherlock Holmes 🕵️‍♂️ novels I’ve read
”Thank God!” I ejaculated from my very heart.

Conceived at a dinner with Oscar Wilde present, in the Langham hotel that is mentioned in the book, I expected quite a lot of this novel. The book starts off edgy enough, with Holmes injecting cocaine due to boredom and casually unpacking Watsons brother misfortunes. Quickly a Miss Morstan, being all perfect, fetching her clues from her bag as needed, turns up at Baker Street.

Compared to The Hound of the Baskervilles or A Study in Scarlet I felt Holmes didn’t need to do as much in The Sign of Four, and there were hardly any sidetracks. Also the treatment of women (”Woman are never to be entirely trusted, - not the best of them.”) and Indians (black fiends) felt much more dated, or at least more obvious, than in those other two novels.

I mean, we have a dark dwarf with a poisoned dart weapon (who of course has a chapter on it’s demise while all caucasians survive), which is hardly compensated by a wild river chase.
Also I wondered how someone threw something in the river and shoveled coals at the same time?
Still a quick and entertaining read so I round my 2.5 stars up anyways, also due to Watson being all lovey dovey.
Profile Image for Charles  van Buren.
1,770 reviews197 followers
August 1, 2022
Charles van Buren


5.0 out of 5 stars Very small illustrations

June 9, 2019

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase

Review of free e-book
Publication date: June 14, 2016
Publisher: Wisehouse Classics, Sweden
Language: English

This Swedish published book is in English with a few very small illustrations by Richard Gutschmidt, born May 11, 1861, in Munich. He was the first German illustrator of Sherlock Holmes tales, illustrating six books for the Lutz-Verlag in Stuttgart in the early 1900's. This is a visually clean, easy to read edition in which I noticed no flaws.

THE SIGN OF FOUR has been one of my two favorite Sherlock Holmes books since I was a child. What red-blooded American boy or girl for that matter wouldn't like an adventure and mystery tale of stolen treasure; India during the mutiny; strange, exotic characters invading a stately home of England in search of the treasure stolen from the thieves by double dealing "gentlemen" ; murder and more. The only thing I didn't like was the ultimate fate of the treasure. As an adult, I understand that this enabled Dr. Watson to find an even greater treasure but....

Clicking on the View in Store icon at this Goodreads listing takes you to the free Kindle edition of the Public Domain Book, not the Wisehouse Classics edition. However, this is where the review wound up when I wrote it using the before you go function at the end of the book. I had little trouble finding this edition on Amazon when I used Silk Browser rather than the Amazon app or the bar at the top of my Amazon home page on my Kindle.

All of the reviews posted at this listing are not for the same edition. Apparently Amazon and Goodreads just lump them all together.
Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,097 reviews17.7k followers
January 17, 2023
Sometimes the Sherlock Holmes novel is just kind of racist. I had the same complaints about this as A Study In Scarlet—it is a short story that has been made novel-length for no reason. The only distinction: A healthy dose of colonial exoticism. My verdict remains that the Sherlock Holmes short stories are masterpieces, but man, these first two novels just don’t work for me.

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Profile Image for Justin.
285 reviews2,305 followers
August 3, 2020
Sherlock Holmes kicks this book off by shooting cocaine directly into his veins so I expected a wild, drug-fueled 19th century epic, but I don’t think Sherlock even really reacted to it. It was more like Watson asking what drug Holmes was using today, and Holmes is like “Well damn it all to hell my good man, I think today I’m just gonna skip right past the coffee and go with cocaine instead.” Watson is just like whatever like he’s indifferent to the whole thing, and Sherlock just rambles on about a seven percent solution like what’s happening is just completely normal everyday stuff, but it’s not. This was not part of their roommate agreement in the last book, but here we go anyway. Waking up, giving our heart a heavy jolt of white-powdered electricity, meeting a woman named Mary, and then solving another mystery. Just another day in the life of Sherlock Holmes. What a rockstar, this guy. What a true weekend warrior and American hero, this guy, am I right? I can’t solve mysteries like what did I even have for dinner last night or where did my car keys go, but this guy can just snort a bunch of powder into his nose and go about his day solving big mysteries like how someone died or what the sign of the four is all about. God, what a legend. What a man, what a man, what a man, what a might good man. Yes he is. Gotta say it again now. I wanna take a minute or two and give much respect to...

The story’s alright, like the one before it. It was more fun meeting Mary and watching things blossom with her and Dr. W. The mystery wasn’t the greatest thing in the world, but I’m now excited to read the Adventures of.. short stories. Man, this guy. I tell ya. He always has every conversation for the mind, which means a lot to me ‘cause those men are hard to find.
Profile Image for Julian Worker.
Author 35 books377 followers
May 30, 2021
One of the classic Sherlock Holmes' books written by Arthur Conan Doyle, the one about India, missing treasure, a boat chase on The Thames, and Dr Watson meeting his wife.

The only thing I don't appreciate about these tales is how weak the female characters are written, as though they're just useful for creating plot lines. It's very noticeable in this story. It makes me appreciate Agatha Christie even more.

But you should read this book, just to discover the powers of deduction of Sherlock - it seems obvious after he's give his opinion. There's no Mycroft and no Moriarty to distract from the story.
Profile Image for Keith.
Author 12 books237 followers
September 10, 2011
Probably the best part of this book is that it begins and ends with Holmes shooting up cocaine because he's bored. I mean, that's just so damn dark, especially when A Study in Scarlet wasn't very dark at all.

Probably the worst part is struggling through all the rampant racism, which isn't nearly as funny as the rampant anti-Mormonism was in aSiS. The peg-leg jewel thief Jonathan Small (awesome) is assisted by a cannibal pygmy named Tonga (also awesome, but also horribly awful). I had to put it down mid-climax because I was getting a little grossed out by all the Tonga stuff (I'm even having a hard time typing Tonga over and over) and also because I saw there was going to be a big Confession scene at the end (so boring).

But then I finally finished it, if for no other reason than I really wanted to get to the next book with none of those dangling unfinished feelings. And you know, the ending was actually really interesting -- and oddly enough, like a really complex micro-novel about war and imperialism and slavery and revolution and morality and jewel-thievery. In twenty pages of the antagonist telling his backstory, you go from hating him to feeling sorry for him to hating him to feeling sorry for him again, which was a really fascinating thing to go through. Plus his backstory has a completely fleshed-out cast of multicultural characters that actually act (gasp) like human beings, which almost makes up for all the racism until you get to the part where he goes "and then I stopped by some island to pick up a little savage to help me commit crimes with."

Also you have a love interest, two totally different but interlocking multi-generational mysteries, and a couple long speeches about how life is boring without cocaine. On the face of it, that is a rollicking good time -- just maybe not so much in execution, especially with the racism and whatnot. But still, you know? I liked it. I'm glad I read it. I can see myself getting more out of it on a second read.

Also this little bit of poetry, dropped mid-sentence and never referred to again:

"...on miracle plays, on medieval pottery, on Stradivarius violins, on the Buddhism of Ceylon, and on the warships of the future..."
Profile Image for Ɗẳɳ  2.☊.
159 reviews299 followers
July 17, 2018
Book two in which Sherlock adds cocaine addiction to his list of proclivities. It seems the cases are few and far between, and his mind rebels at stagnation. He abhors the dull routine of day to day living and requires some sort of mental stimulation. Dr. Watson, while highly annoyed, is still much too reserved to ever dare to take liberties. Watson tries to engage Holmes with a discussion of the pamphlet he’s written about their first case, “A Study in Scarlet.” But Holmes promptly dismisses it and accuses Watson of attempting to romanticize the cold hard science of deduction. Watson is more than a little upset at the casual criticism of a story he had specially designed to please Holmes, but once again holds his tongue. Thankfully their lover’s spat is soon halted when a young lady shows up with a new case.

Mary Morstan tells a strange tale of how her father disappeared from her life. Then a few years later, after replying to an inquiry, she received a package containing a pearl. Every year since she’s received a similar package with another pearl. Now this unknown benefactor wishes to meet to discuss his motivations. She can’t help but wonder if any of this is related to her father’s disappearance. Holmes and Watson agree to accompany her to the meeting. Things go awry, the situation becomes more complicated, and it appears as though Holmes can finally set aside the cocaine for a proper bit of detective work . . .

Overall, another decent mystery, not horribly exciting except for the steam-powered boat chase. Followed once again by a ridiculously long interview with the culprit. The final chapter is nothing more than another boring and detailed explanation of the crime and takes up a staggering 22% of the novel. There’s also a side plot in which Watson is struck with a case of insta-love for Miss Morstan, and even proposes marriage . . . or does he? My edition included an alternate ending which may have been deemed too controversial for the times in which this book was published. It reads as follows:

The game is afoot!

I shook Holmes awake, for I had been reticent for far too long and could no longer hold my tongue. I would rather have all my hopes dashed upon the rocks than sit for another moment with this remarkable man, without professing my true feelings. Holmes saw my troubled expression at once, gave a knowing smile, and took my hand. “My dear boy, I too have been waiting for this moment, of course, I've felt those same longings,” said he. His powers of deduction never failed to amaze. “Oh, praise the good Lord!” I exclaimed, pulled his wonderful face to my own, and ravaged his mouth. A few moments passed before he gently pushed me away, and kissed the tears from my eyes. “Now Watson, we must consider our curious predicament. For I fear this society in which we live will never allow for the possibility of two men to profess feelings of love for one another. We may find ourselves shunned, as though we be lepers.” He stood and began to pace around the room incessantly, as I racked my brain for a solution, analyzing the problem from all possible angles.

“Alas!” he ejaculated, a short while later, “I may have just the fix. For I recently read of a new surgical technique whereas a man can be transmogrified into that of a female form. What say you to undertaking such an endeavor?” I had long since learned to always trust in his reasoning, never to question his sagacity. “I must say, it strikes me as rather ingenious,” said I. I noticed a smirk come across his features. “On the contrary my good doctor, it's actually quite Elementary!

One year removed.

The wind ruffled my dress, as I stepped across the gangplank onto the deck of the huge ocean-faring vessel. I turned to Sherlock, reached for his hand and said, “How fitting that we shall begin this glorious new chapter, in our unique story, upon the very shores of the New World itself!”
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A Study In Scarlet (Book One): ★★★☆☆½
The Sign of Four (Book Two): ★★☆☆☆
Profile Image for Piyangie.
530 reviews497 followers
August 28, 2019
This is an interesting murder mystery. The story is full of suspense and it had a fair amount of action. I liked the story in the Sign of Four more than in A Study in Scarlet. I think it is because the way the story was structured and the fact that the main characters of Holmes and Watson were better developed. I was really intrigued by Holmes's power of deduction. Undoubtedly, his is one of the brilliant fictitious detective minds.

In addition to the murder-mystery, here Dr. Watson finds his life partner. This romantic element was very sweetly and touchingly introduced in to the story without disturbing the main story line.

Holmes's character is more established here, giving insight to his peculiar habits and eccentricities. I really liked the fact that Conan Doyle has introduced a realistic fictional detective in Sherlock Holmes. His absurdities makes him real and human.
Profile Image for Jan-Maat.
1,566 reviews1,895 followers
September 27, 2018
I am quite impressed and curious that this 1890 novel is better than Conan-Doyle's 1912 The Lost World it is as though the repeated practise of writing exhausted his talent, and he got worse over time - but this is just a passing thought, further research is required to make it a theory.

Truly it is just like a typical Sherlock Holmes short story, except five times longer, it doesn't seem any more complex, but neither does it seem padded out.

I wondered though if money is at the root (or treasure or assets broadly, fixed or liquid) of all Sherlock Holmes stories? I can't think of any motivation for criminality in his stories that doesn't concern gaining control over an inheritance, an income, or the fear of loosing the same. Perhaps this is the great late Victorian obsession - wealth buys you status and position, it alienates you from the realities of the South London streets- with gaudy pubs on their corners full of scruffy men drinking their breakfasts, that Holmes and Watson with a borrowed dog tour in pursuit of a criminal who made the fatal mistake of stepping in some creosote. The prospect of great wealth means that Doctor Watson will be unable to marry the young woman that we are introduced to in this story. Wealth then plays a curious role in the world of Holmes at once desirable, the lust for it will push people into committing crimes, and because of that, alienating - destructive of intimacy and connection between people. Naturally once you've 'acquired' wealth, in this story stolen from somebody who had stolen it from somebody who had , you have to guard it like a dragon, I don't know if Conan-Doyle saw the Ring cycle on stage but his work has something of that flavour (particularly here in the ending): with great wealth comes great insecurity and fear, because truly who can protect themselves from the avenging power of a midget with a blowpipe and a man with a wooden leg, eager to steal what was stolen from them .

Holmes is an interesting figure because Conan-Doyle shows him as uniquely able to move through the atomised and alienated segments of Late Victorian people - he can talk to anyone, he can move unnoticed among any class of people - this for example is not true of the police. Taken with Holmes cocaine habit, one has the sense of him as a transgressive figure, able because of that to shift across the boundaries of society in pursuit of the solution to a crime. However he also has a wayward eccentricity which will become, curiously the abnormal norm, or the norm of abnormality for generations of fictional detectives, they all have to have their quirk, how unfortunate for all future writers that Conan-Doyle devised such an extremely odd character, all subsequent detectives have to somehow remain within the bounds he established, there can be no out Holmesing Holmes it seems.

Because of this Conan-Doyle is able to turn one of the conventions of the adventure novel on its head. Normally in such books the world can be approximately divided into two. Home - which is safe, nice, good (but possibly a tiny bit boring) , and the locus of adventure - which is foreign, exotic, perhaps extra-planetary, or in the past or future, or some fantasy land accessible through a wardrobe . What Conan-Doyle says is NO! Adventure, crime, lurk everywhere, there is no safe non-adventurous space - you take on an ordinary consulting engineers job- Crime, crime (the Engineer's thumb)! You can't trust your parents even as you are about to waltz off down the road in your electric blue dress and the money you are due to inherit (The Copper Beeches, the Speckled Band ), behind every door there is the potential for crime just for the chance of a few Guineas more.

In this story there is a nice touch of both Magwitch and his Great Expectations as well as Treasure Island, the criminally dangerous man with a wooden leg, the prosthetic leg itself a deadly weapon, the terrible frightening danger of sinister disabled people which no doubt helped put back work towards equality and accessibility for generations, and the heart warming tale of an escaped convict coming back to Britain only to get stuck in the North Kent marshes .

In this story of treasure from India there is an implication that all the world's wealth, and every big house, surrounded by a wall topped with broken glass are the proceeds of crime. Even if you don't conclude that Empire itself is simply the most audacious form of theft in history, it is impossible to avoid seeing that it created the most amazing opportunities for theft - if only you can manage somehow to carry your ill-gotten gains home and watch over them like a dragon.

A Wounded veteran of the Afghan war and mentions of the Langham hotel in London (also appearing in a Scandal in Bohemia) appear as passing bonuses for the reader. I wasn't entirely convinced by the ending, but you can't have everything. More graphic drug taking than I recall from other Holmes stories, down to the scared forearm.
Profile Image for Alan.
473 reviews216 followers
January 10, 2023
Another great adventure. Not as good as ​​A Study in Scarlet, but great fun. Something about the feel of these stories makes the cold, dark Canadian winter nights bearable. I thought Sherlock was his usual self, though the clues did not unfold in the satisfying, Rube Goldberg-esque fashion that lends itself to that “aha” feeling.
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