Sunday, April 29, 2012

Thoughts: The Sign of Four by Arthur Conan Doyle

Want to know how this book starts? I don’t think you can guess, unless you’ve already read it.

In the first page of the book, Arthur Conan Doyle describes how Sherlock Holmes happily shoots cocaine up his veins.

Now, that’s what I call an eye-opening experience.

At this point, I know I’m supposed to write about the mystery and what the hell the sign of four is, but I’m going to skip all that. See, it’s best to go into a Sherlock Holmes novel or story knowing virtually nothing about it. It keeps you guessing, on your toes so to speak. I’m just going to say that, like with A Study in Scarlet, Arthur Conan Doyle used flashbacks to pile a whole lot of backstory on the reader, but I think he’s the only writer I’ve ever encountered who can do it without seeming like a bore.

In A Study in Scarlet, we’re just getting to know Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, but, in The Sign of Four, we become more intimate with them. Exhibit A: We become aware of Sherlock Holmes’ cocaine habit. Exhibit B: We discover that Dr. Watson has a heart, and also happens to be a bit of a romantic.

In The Sign of Four, we meet Mary Morstan who might or might not be an heiress. I have to applaud Arthur Conan Doyle for his portrayal of her, because she’s not just another piece of fluff. She’s level-headed, and doesn’t faint at the slightest hint of murder. I can actually see why Watson likes her so much.

Meeting Mary Morstan actually made me more excited about meeting Irene Adler (no, I’m not talking about Rachel McAdams). Irene Adler is The Woman, the person said to be Sherlock Holmes’ equal in brains and cunning. I can’t wait to see how Arthur Conan Doyle portrays her.

Arthur Conan Doyle, methinks you might be a feminist.

Overall, I didn’t like the mystery that much, but I loved the more personal look at Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.


Ben said...

haha! Oh yeah. That's Holmes in a nutshell for you. Not even real life Robert Downey Jr. was getting that high.

Aarti said...

I generally don't remember the specifics of particular Sherlock Holmes stories, but I really like Holmes generally. I am so into the new Sherlock series on Masterpiece, too! Have you been watching those?

Cassandra said...

This post comes at the right time! Tonight the Austrian TV finally manages to broadcast the first episode of Sherlock and I am excited :)

Sam (Tiny Library) said...

I've always found the Sherlock Holmes I have read to be boring, but obviously I've never read this one! :P

mooderino said...

I think backstory tends to work when you want to know more about the characters, and who doesn't want to know more about Holmes? It's when you're fed backstory on ordinary characters that it feels a bit of a chore.

Moody Writing
The Funnily Enough

Christa @ Hooked on Books said...

I love Sherlock Holmes but I actually haven't read this one. Nice to hear this one focuses on the characters a bit more.

Zibilee said...

Wow, that opening scene surely does pack a punch, doesn't it? I have never read any Holmes, though I have the complete collection in 2 volumes. I need to read a few of the stories and see if they are my thing or not. It sounds like a really wonderful book, so I may start here!

amanda @ simplerpastimes said...

I read this one a lot better than A Study in Scarlet, as I thought the back story worked a lot better. And it was just so fun! I really need to read some more of the Holmes stories--they're fun and quick. I'm really looking forward to meeting Irene Adler, too.

buddy2blogger said...

Nice review. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was definitely a Feminist, way back in 19th Century :)

I would also recommend 'The House of Silk' by Anthony Horowitz. Horowitz is a great writer and did a nice job capturing the essence of the Sherlock Holmes canon.

Check out my review .



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