Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Sign of Four by Arthur Conan Doyle

ISBN: 9780141034379
Publisher: The Penguin Group
Paperback: 160
Genre: Mystery
First Line: Sherlock Holmes took his bottle from the corner of the mantelpiece, and his hypodermic syringe from its neat morocco case.
One Word Review: Inconsistent

The Sign of Four, originally published in 1890, is the second Sherlock Holmes novella by Arthur Conan Doyle. Holmes' ever faithful sidekick, Dr. Watson, narrates this tale that will have them searching the streets of London for a thief, a murderer, and a treasure.

The first three fourths of this book was surprisingly easy to read. While it's obviously written with a nineteenth century style, it doesn't feel dated, and I found it easy to forget I was reading something written over a century ago. The story starts off quickly giving us insight into both men's personalities - Holmes' penchant for drug use to escape boredom and Watson's insecurities. It was fascinating to see the deductive reasoning that Sherlock Holmes is so well known for played out in the earlier chapters. The excitement builds as the men near the end of their search. However, I felt it sort of fell flat in the last couple of chapters. The summary explaining everything in the end went on for far too long, and I found myself flipping to the back of the book to see when it would be over - not a good sign.

Overall, I'd say it's interesting from a character standpoint. I think the development of Holmes and Watson in this particular book are for more interesting, in fact, than the plot.

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Ruth said...

I haven't read this book in years (I need to correct that soon!) but I love the Sherlock Holmes stories. They have managed to age very well. The relationship between Holmes and Watson is fascinating stuff.

Kathleen said...

I can't believe I've never read any Sherlock Holmes books! Thanks for reminding me about them.

Bluestocking said...

I think my favorite Holmes tale is the Valley of Fear. this one is good too.