Posts Tagged ‘sir arthur conan doyle’

19th June
written by Steph


The Sign of Four is the second novella penned by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle featuring the illustrious and magnetic Sherlock Holmes.  Miss Mary Morstan seeks the council of Sherlock Holmes when she receives a mysterious note informing her that a grievous wrong has been conducted against her, and moreover, the letter writer can shed some light on the fate of her father who has been missing for over a decade.  The duo agree to accompany her to meet the mysterious author writer, but soon find themselves investigating a murder all the while trying to track down some missing treasure. In this novella, Conan Doyle reveals the darker side of Holmes’s character her, specifically his dabbling with his infamous “seven per cent solution”.   Other than that delightful little bit of character development (I know drugs are bad, but it’s such an integral part of the Holmes character it was cool to see it introduced), however, for me it did not have quite the same charms as A Study in Scarlet.  I found the mystery (yet another “locked door” mystery) less compelling and more obviously depending on background information that no reader has any chance of knowing until it is revealed.  Also, I didn’t feel the backstory was as artfully communicated as was done in A Study in Scarlet.  Holmes’s deductive skills are swift and keen, but I felt quite helpless while reading The Sign of Four, and it was all perhaps a little zany for my tastes.  Of course A Study in Scarlet was a bit out in left-field at times, but I suppose there were elements apart from the core mystery (such as the humor and wit in the writing) that I was able to enjoy independently.  Here I felt much of the spark and vim was missing to the storytelling, which is disappointing since three years elapsed between the publication of Scarlet and this.  Perhaps because of this I was more aware of certain unsavory mentalities that weren't so obvious (in my opinion) in the first book - at times Holmes/Watson can be quite racist and sexist.  A product of its time, I know, but still quite jarring to me.   It wasn’t a flop, just a bit of a letdown following such a vibrant debut.  Sophomore slump, I suppose. But I’m still carrying on in my attempt to read through the series, so next in line is the collection of stories The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.  I know I read some of these when I was younger, but I’ll be damned if I can remember how any of them turn out (or what any of them were about!)! Rating: 3.5 out of 5