The Sign of the Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Genre: Mystery
Series: #2 in the traditional canon of Sherlock Holmes
Publisher: The Floating Press
Publication Date: 1890 (this edition 2009)
Pages: 117
Challenge: What’s in a Name 4 (a book with a number in the title)
Source: Library ebook

The Short Version:
A young woman hires Sherlock Holmes to find out what happened to her long missing father and the reason someone has been sending hear a valuable pearl once a year.

Why I Read It:
I recently started the Sherlock Holmes books for the first time and liked the first one so much that it didn’t take me long to request this one from the library.

The Book
Mary Morstan’s father disappeared years ago. He was on leave from his regiment in India and had arranged for her to meet him in at a hotel in London, but when she arrived, he’d gone out and not returned. He was never heard from again. A few years later Miss Morstan had seen an advertisement asking for her address which she answered. Since then on an annual basis she’d received a large and valuable pearl in the mail. The reason she came to see Sherlock Hollmes is that whoever has been sending these gifts has now asked to meet Miss Morstan and has said she could bring friends. She hires Holmes and Watson to accompany her to this mysterious meeting.

The meeting leads to revelations about her father’s history as a prison guard, lost treasure, a mysterious man with a wooden leg, a criminal pact and murder.

My Thoughts:
Once again I think I enjoy the asides and observations from Watson nearly as much as I do the actual mystery story itself. This is a short quick read, but there is a lot of action and story in relatively few pages. It’s also a chance to learn a bit more about Holmes and Watson. Right off the bat, Holmes drug use is mentioned and while Watson seems disapproving, Holmes passes it off as a way to keep his mind stimulated when he’s bored from lack of work.

It’s interesting that while Holmes is clearly brilliant, he’s kind of an arrogant jerk and the character of Watson serves as such a great foil. We see the story and Holmes through his eyes and filters and he’s able to soften some of the disagreeable sides of Holmes through his own likeability and sensitivity. His feelings toward their client are quite sweet to read about.

This time around the story flows a bit better than A Study in Scarlet without the sudden change of time and place that was so jarring in that first Holmes story. This time around the story stays with Holmes, Watson and the present day investigation with events of the past revealed as told by characters.

I have no idea why it took me so long to actually start reading these books. Perhaps the age and some bad experiences with books written about the same time had something to do with it. Nevertheless I’m finding them quite readable, enjoyable and interesting. I’m looking forward to reading the next one soon.

Rating 4/5