Sunday, March 27, 2011

Book Review: The Sign of Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

I started The Sign of Four immediately after I finished A Study in Scarlet. It was pretty much more of the same: a typical Sherlock Homes mystery, but novel length. I enjoyed this one slightly more than A Study in Scarlet as the narrative unfolded in a more cogent, organized fashion, and the introduction of relevant characters was less haphazard and confusing.

The reader also gets a better idea of the nature of Holmes' and Watson's characters, including Holmes' coke habit, which definitely did not appear in the version of this novel I read when I was nine. One thing that never fails to tickle me about nineteenth century literature is the casual way in which doing cocaine and heroin derivatives (opium, laudanum, morphine, etc.) is treated. It's like a Brett Easton Ellis novel, but with less sex and swearing.

Anyway. This time, Holmes and Watson are tasked with finding a missing Indian treasure and returning it to its rightful owner, a young women with whom Watson falls in love with in short order. Doyle introduces a few new figures, including a florid detective and a passel of street children who run errands for him in addition to Watson's new love. I liked watching the world of Holmes and Watson expand, and the action was far more interesting. The characters are actually out doing things, rather than musing in a study.

3.5 out of 5 stars.

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