Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Sign of Four (Sherlock Holmes, #2)” as Want to Read:
The Sign of Four (Sherlock Holmes, #2)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Read Book* *Different edition

The Sign of Four

(Sherlock Holmes #2)

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  112,737 ratings  ·  4,860 reviews
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 l ...more
Paperback, Penguin Classics (UK/CAN/USA), 129 pages
Published July 5th 2001 by Penguin Books (first published February 1890)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Sign of Four, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Yves Page I don't mind the remarks because we need to consider the era when the book was written. Also, I'm assuming Arthur Conan Doyle was not trying to insult…moreI don't mind the remarks because we need to consider the era when the book was written. Also, I'm assuming Arthur Conan Doyle was not trying to insult or denigrate a specific ethnic group.(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.94  · 
Rating details
 ·  112,737 ratings  ·  4,860 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Sign of Four (Sherlock Holmes, #2)
(A-) 82% | Very Good
Notes: Better structured, with more character depth than its predecessor, but it feels like a short story padded into a novella.
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 adj
Aug 25, 2015 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Hardcore fans of Sherly
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
Henry Avila
May 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 in ...more
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
“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). Wats
Ahmad Sharabiani
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
Sep 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
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 Sher

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

[image error] photo 233036a9-d07d-4451-b7f5-bec6fcec0c33_zpsu26vu9vj.jpg

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 real
Jun 11, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
James Tivendale
Aug 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 recei ...more
Dan Schwent
Aug 25, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 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
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
"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 h
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 myst ...more
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 description
Aug 03, 2020 rated it liked it
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 abou ...more
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
Ɗẳɳ  2.☊
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 ...more
Aug 08, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 d
Feb 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
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 li
Aug 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classics
SH: “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

JW: “Good Lord, Holmes! You just said something iconic! I shall have to write this down. Say that again? “When the what is impossible, and what do you do afterward?”

Nah! Watson never said that.

The Sign of Four (originally titled “The Sign of the Four”, I suppose that is one “The” too many, so the publisher dropped one) begins with Holmes shooting cocaine out of boredom and then proceeding to hu
Aug 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is difficult to think of many literary characters who have had anything like the huge impact that Sherlock Holmes has had - not just in literary terms, but culturally as well. The legend that is Sherlock Holmes goes way beyond the world of the written word - and for good reason too; as a character, Holmes is a wonderfully original, eccentric, sociopathic, misanthropic, fascinating, astonishingly brilliant and almost unparalleled creation. The wonderful character that is Sherlock Holmes - both ...more
Karlyflower *The Vampire Ninja, Luminescent Monster & Wendigo Nerd Goddess of Canada (according to The Hulk)*
2.5 Why Did This Take Me Three Months To Read?? Stars

Verdict: IT CRUNCHES! It crunches sooooooo bad!!

It almost never bodes well when a book that is this short takes me this long to read (The one exception is Donna Tartt’s Secret History which took me half a lifetime over a year to finish). And while I can’t say I dislike Doyle’s writing overall this short novel does basically nothing for me.

Incidentally, the instalove is STRONG with this one! Watson falls madly, deeply, entirely in love with M
Jan 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Status: In love with Sherlock Holmes and his attention to details, in love with Doyle's style of writing💓

First time reading for Sir “Arthur Conan Doyle” as well as encountering the famous Detective of all times “Sherlock Holmes”

Didn't expect to like it as much as I did honestly, I thought it would be about a crime, criminals, law & justice & the intelligence of the one & only Sherlock Holmes..
BUT NO!!! it didn't stop there! there was all these descriptive passages; whether of chara
Mar 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The Oxford Library of short novels is my hardback 3 book set that I'm reading my Sunday shorts from.
This is the blurb from Amazon about the collection..

"The short novel is a literary form that has stimulated writers to some of their greatest work. This selection, drawn from the period when the genre was at its height, 1880 to 1945, and from British, European and American authors, offers readers a wide range of imaginative fiction. In his introduction, Wain argues that the short novel exists as a
Ann (Inky)
"When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."

After some consideration, I'm giving the second Sherlock Holmes story 3 stars (maybe a 3.33-3.5 or so, if we're being nit-picky). While the first, A Study in as Scarlett utterly blew me away and captivated me completely, The Sign was good, but in time, forgettable.

Also, it was pretty racist. But I'm not gonna get into that.

I don't think that being forgettable is totally a bad thing, really. Th
Feb 04, 2019 rated it it was ok
Actual rating:2.5⭐

Never a good sign when a book this short takes so long to finish .To be frank , there was nothing much interesting plot wise. I had to remind myself it was Sir Doyle's second story and I know he gets much better with the later ones. Now that I think of it, The Hound of Baskervillles would have been a much better option for my re-read.I really like Sherlock's personality - right mixture of arrogance,condescending attitude and humor. His eccentricities are the highlights here .
Sep 02, 2015 rated it it was ok
Well alrighty then. Sherlock and Watson on the case again! I didn't really think that this case was all that interesting. I had hoped, in the beginning, that it would be a missing person case, but it quickly turned into a jewel heist case, and a pretty boring one at that. AND SO WORDY!

I do like Sherlock himself, condescending though he may be at times, and Watson... but then Watson had to go and ruin it by instaloving the first girl who talks to him. *sigh*

Anyway, I do want to continue this se
Dec 30, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: owned-e-books
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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • A Scandal in Bohemia (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, #1)
  • The Mysterious Affair at Styles (Hercule Poirot, #1)
  • The Adventure of the Speckled Band
  • The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (Hercule Poirot, #4)
  • The Man in the Brown Suit (Colonel Race, #1)
  • Death on the Nile (Hercule Poirot, #17)
  • The A.B.C. Murders (Hercule Poirot, #13)
  • Murder on the Orient Express (Hercule Poirot, #10)
  • Carne compartida
  • The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle
  • The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
  • The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
  • And Then There Were None
  • Dancing at Lughnasa
  • O Cão dos Baskervilles (Biblioteca RTP, #11)
See similar books…
Sir Arthur 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 u

Other books in the series

Sherlock Holmes (9 books)
  • A Study in Scarlet (Sherlock Holmes, #1)
  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Sherlock Holmes, #3)
  • The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (Sherlock Holmes, #4)
  • The Hound of the Baskervilles (Sherlock Holmes, #5)
  • The Return of Sherlock Holmes (Sherlock Holmes, #6)
  • The Valley of Fear (Sherlock Holmes, #7)
  • His Last Bow (Sherlock Holmes, #8)
  • The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes (Sherlock Holmes, #9)

Related Articles

If you love a page-turning mystery, you are in for a treat this month. We're seeing a great assortment of highly anticipated mysteries and...
67 likes · 23 comments
“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 dull routine of existence. I crave for mental exaltation. That is why I have chosen my own particular profession, or rather created it, for I am the only one in the world.” 728 likes
“How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?” 342 likes
More quotes…