The Sign of Four by Arthur Conan Doyle — Reread Review


Previous in the series: A Study in Scarlet.

Once before I’ve attempted to read all the Sherlock Holmes stories in order — though I don’t think I got to the end. It was just before I started logging all my books on and I suspect I tried to do them all in a row, with nothing else in between, and just got tired of them.

If my future were black, it was better surely to face it like a man than to attempt to brighten it by mere will-o’-the wisps if the imagination.

The Sign of Four, Arthur Conan Doyle

The Sign of Four was never one of my favourites, standing out mostly for introducing Mary Morstan. The structure is strikingly similar to A Study in Scarlet, both trundling along as Sherlock investigates the case until they find their prime suspect and inflict on him a long and slightly rambling interview to uncover the origins of the crime.

Interestingly, as happened when I read A Study in Scarlet, my empathy for characters outside of Sherlock and Dr Watson seems to have increased. In this case, I couldn’t help feeling that Mary’s claim on the treasure was pretty tenuous. There were reasons beyond Dr Watson’s marital ambitions to hope that she might not get her hands on it. The depiction of Tonga is also unfortunate at best, as I’m sure more educated people than me have adequately expounded.

The two Sikhs closed in upon him on each side, and the giant walked behind, while they marched in through the dark gate-way. Never was a man so compassed round with death.

The Sign of Four, Arthur Conan Doyle

Nothing about The Sign of Four struck me as particularly clever, so I’d go so far as to say it’s only required reading for the most die-hard Sherlock Holmes fans. It did include the scene where Sherlock performs his science of deduction on Dr Watson’s pocket watch, though, which prompted me to visit and enjoy the scene in Sherlock which it inspires.

(As much as I love this scene, I can’t give the book extra points because of it!)

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

Next in the series: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

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