The Sign of Four

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Sign of Four
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Watson and Sherlock are back in this delicious mystery, one of only four full Sherlock novels. This one has it all and is my personal favorite. It opens with Sherlock shooting cocaine as a concerned Watson questions the addiction. Things just get better from there. We have a mysterious treasure from India passed down from father to son, murder, great disguises from Sherlock and even a bit of romance for Watson.

I love that this novel gives us the full range of Sherlock’s emotions. He is obviously troubled, both when he is bored and when he is frustrated by a case. At other times he is completely joyous and playful as his mind ticks at a rapid pace, miles ahead of everyone else as he connects the dots.

The relationship between Watson and Sherlock is at its best here. It’s still in its infancy in A Study in Scarlet and it’s almost completely missing in The Hound of the Baskervilles. This book captures the core of their friendship. They balance each other, Sherlock needs someone to think of the emotional side of things and Watson loves being involved in the thrill of a new case, though he wouldn’t pursue this line of work on his own.

We also have Sherlock’s fussy landlady, Mrs. Hudson, who worries about her tenant and the client, Miss Mary Morstan, who catches Watson’s eye. Then there’s the Baker Street Irregulars, a ragtag group of boys who occasionally help Sherlock with his cases. The novel also has a helpful dog named Toby and some of Sherlock’s most infamous lines. You can’t go wrong with this one.

BOTTOM LINE: This is definitely my favorite Sherlock Holmes novel so far. I also think it would be a great starting point for anyone who is new to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s work.

"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."

"The chief proof of man's real greatness lies in his perception of his own smallness."

“No, I am not tired. I have a curious constitution. I never remember feeling tired by work, though idleness exhausts me completely."

“Miss Morstan and I stood together, and her hand was in mine. A wondrous subtle thing is love, for here were we two who had never seen each other before that day, between whom no word or even look of affection had ever passed, and yet now in an hour of trouble our hands instinctively sought for each other.”

“Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.”

I read this as part of the Victorian Celebration hosted by Allie at A Literary Odyssey.


Sandy Nawrot said...

The Sherlock Holmes books are a vague project that I know I need to undertake. I have not read ONE.

Kristi said...

I bought myself an omnibus of all the Sherlock Holmes books for Christmas this past year, but I have yet to crack it open. I'm really excited to get to them.

Relationships between characters like Watson and Holmes, to me, make books so much more interesting. As I was reading your review, it reminded me of one of my favorite shows, House MD. It ended this season and there was a behind the scenes episode and it mentioned that the main character was based very loosely on Sherlock Holmes. He has a friend that is like his Watson. That's probably why I loved the show so much--that dynamic.

Sorry for the novel of a comment.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Sandy - This would be a great place to start!

Kristi - I loved House too! It was House and Wilson's realtionship that made the show so great and I had heard as well that the whole thing was built around Sherlock. I think if you liked that relationship then you will really enjoy your new omnibus! Try one or two short stories first to get a feel for the style.

Aarti said...

I saw a PBS online interview with Steven Moffat of the BBC version of Sherlock. One of the things mentioned is the way that people on the show keep trying to sexualize the relationship between Sherlock and Watson, eve though they are just friends through the stories. He said you can make it what you want, but friendship is a very strong love. I really liked that answer, and the loyalty between the two is one of my favorite things about this duo.

Heather said...

I love Holmes! I really need to read more of the stories. I have a two volume set, but I've only read the first volume.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Aarti - I completely agree. Their relationship was always one of devoted friends and I never understood the desire to distort that.

Heather - I never get tired of him. I've been rereading some of his work and discovering a few short stories and novels that I thought I'd read, but I somehow missed!

Care said...

Oh good! I appreciate the recommendation. I'm tbring this RIGHT NOW.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Care - It's a great intro to Sherlock, enjoy!

Becky said...

I've only read a Study in Scarlet--and wasn't horribly impressed--you've made me reconsider this one. Maybe I just haven't given him enough of a try yet!

Rob said...

Just read this a while back and really enjoyed it. I'd only read Baskervilles before that, so it was fun to actually have Sherlock around for this novel.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Becky - Definitely try this one, I thik it's a much better place to start.

Rob - The stories with Sherlock are always more fun! He's such a unique character.

Amy said...

I started off my Classic Club journey with this book. I am a huge fan of the TV, movie, etc of Sherlock Holmes. This is the first book I have read.

Thanks for your review. It was very interesting.

Have a wonderful day.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Amy - Thanks Amy. I loved this one and it's the perfect Sherlock to start with!