The Sign of Four by Arthur Conan Doyle

Well on with the sale books –  I’ve always kind of enjoyed Sherlock Holmes never got around to reading many of them.  This felt right,  especially with Simon Prebble reading.  And I also see that the novels should be considered a series because there is an overarching plot involving the developing characters and their relationships.

The Sign of Four
by Arthur Conan Doyle
1890 / ? pages
read by Simon Prebble 5h 6m
(a Sherlock Holmes novel)
rating –  NA –  19th century detective novels – 


With Dr. Watson narrating in 1st person,  a young woman comes to visit Holmes and tells him her story.   This sounds familiar so far and is similar to Philip Marlowe, too.  The story is that her father went missing on his way home to London from India.  She started getting pearls at the rate of one a year after she responded to a note in the newspaper seeking her.  Now this person sending the pearls wants to meet her.  She goes to Sherlock about whether or not she should and the whole thing.

The outcome is stolen treasure and a secret room,  murder,  four conspirators with one survivor,  a chase hunting a crippled man (footprints – ha!) with a scent sensitive dog  and travel and action on the River Thames.  As usual with Holmes,  the last chapters are all devoted to the detailed explanation.

It’s pretty good if you enjoy Holmes – I wasn’t able to read these kinds of English classics until I was an adult because the language was so forbidding but in the last 20 or so years I’ve come to appreciate them.

I rarely try to guess who done it. I’m content to shifting my views as I read along through all the red herrings and enjoy how the book unfolds.  I sometimes anticipate what this or that means but I rarely used to get the culprit named.  (I know the old trick of remembering the character who had a very brief appearance at the outset – heh.)

Fwiw,  footprints were one of the first types of “clues” used by both professional and fictional detectives.

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