In my last post I mentioned reading Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Sign of Four. @booksnips mentioned something about a review and I thought … well – why not. I'll also tag @ellobooks on this.
I love Sherlock Holmes in tv, fim, and radio form, but I’d never read the stories themselves. So a year or so ago I bought The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Volume I (Barnes & Noble Classics Series) and Volume 2 for my Nook. All of these stories are available in free forms – but the B&N editions often have nice notes and background. Ways to download a free version are at the end.
The original story was published in 1890 in Lippincott’s Monthly magazine under the name The Sign of the Four. Later published as The Sign of Four.
The book opens with Holmes bored with nothing to challenge his brain with except cocaine. This appalls Watson, but soon a visitor sets the wheels in motion with a mystery to task Holmes’ brain.
It took me all of about 4 pages to become totally immersed in the story and wonder where we were headed next. Watson asking questions, Holmes wondering why something plain as day to him baffles poor Watson.
Obviously, by this point you’ve realized I’m not a good book reviewer.
Describing the mystery, the sign of four, the treasure, how it’s solved – that would be horrible of me!
Let me say – there’s a reason Sherlock Holmes stories have been told and retold in so many media over the years. And it starts with the books and short stories.
Arthur Conan Doyle paints a wonderful backdrop. London and the countryside are described in just the right level of detail. The mysteries have layers upon layers on them. We meet the Baker Street Irregulars in this story (again – they appeared in the first novel as well which I haven’t read yet – side note: Why did I start with the 2nd novel? All of the reviews mention Sherlock Holmes begins to come into his own here – more human – so I chose the 2nd.)
There’s one heck of a frantic chase scene that flows so well off the page into my mind’s eye that it felt real. It was thrilling.
And then… the last quarter of the book truly surprised me. I thought the chase and the capture were pretty much the end of the story… but no… there’s so much left to the story and I realize all the mysteries hadn’t been solved yet. Arthur Conan Doyle truly surprised me with the rest of the book – and once again I was glued to the pages until the final word.
I’ve loved the new Sherlock series – and looking forward to the upcoming special that’s set in the original time of Sherlock Holmes.
If you’d like to listen to the classic old time radio shows… honestly I can’t get enough of old time radio: https://archive.org/details/oldtimeradio?&and=%22sherlock%20holmes%22 I recommend anything put out by the OTRR – although I don’t see Sherlock Holmes shows from them.
You’ll find links to download or read online the entire book at the bottom of the Wikipedia page.
image below from wikipedia: