Vanessa's Reviews > The Sign of Four

The Sign of Four by Arthur Conan Doyle
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Jul 17, 2011

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bookshelves: read-in-2011

This is the second Sherlock Holmes mystery and begins and ends wittily with the detective's famous love of the cocaine injection to keep his mind sharp. In-between, Holmes and Watson solve a typically complex missing persons case that turns into a murder mystery-although the victim is not the missing person-that has ties to the Indian Rebellion of 1857. Evidently, this novel is well thought of for bringing a relatively nuanced view to the Rebellion for the time-it's not portrayed as a unilaterally heroic action by the British.

I did like the story and the dialogue between Holmes and Watson is always entertaining but Doyle's characters and the narrative get a little indulgently long-winded for me, expending pages and pages to recount a story that could have been much sharper if it were shortened. This idea would have better suited to a short story than a novella.

Also, after spending a matter of hours with a woman, Watson asks her to marry him and she accepts. I don't know. Maybe they rolled this way in Victorian times but this can often spell the death of chemistry between the main characters. Doyle must have thought so too since Watson's wife disappears without explanation in later stories and Watson is back hanging out at 221B, where he belongs.
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