The Sign of the Four – Arthur Conan Doyle
Download The Sign of the Four ebook. The Sign of the Four (1890), also called The Sign of Four, is the second novel featuring Sherlock Holmes written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Doyle wrote four novels and 56 stories starring the fictional detective.
The story is set in 1888. The Sign of the Four has a complex plot involving service in India, the Indian Rebellion of 1857, a stolen treasure, and a secret pact among four convicts (“the Four” of the title) and two corrupt prison guards. It presents the detective’s drug habit and humanizes him in a way that had not been done in the preceding novel, A Study in Scarlet (1887). It also introduces Doctor Watson’s future wife, Mary Morstan.
According to Mary, in December 1878, her father had telegraphed her upon his safe return from India and requested her to meet him at the Langham Hotel in London. When Mary arrived at the hotel, she was told her father had gone out the previous night and not returned. Despite all efforts, no trace has ever been found of him. Mary contacted her father’s only friend who was in the same regiment and had since retired to England, one Major John Sholto, but he denied knowing her father had returned. The second puzzle is that she has received six pearls in the mail from an anonymous benefactor, one per year since 1882 after answering an anonymous newspaper query inquiring for her. With the last pearl she received a letter remarking that she has been wronged and asking for a meeting. Holmes takes the case and soon discovers that Major Sholto had died in 1882 and that within a short span of time Mary began to receive the pearls, implying a connection. The only clue Mary can give Holmes is a map of a fortress found in her father’s desk with the names of Jonathan Small, Mahomet Singh, Abdullah Khan and Dost Akbar.
First of all this is a wonderful story and the second in the Holmes canon. This not a short story but a novel, actually the second novel (total of 4 novels) with the other 50+ stories being short stories. This ideally should be read second, after A Study in Scarlet (Sherlock Holmes Vol. 1) (where Watson and Holmes meet). Sign of Four is where Watson meets his wife but that is not the focus of the strory. After reading The Sign of Four, and assuming you are still into reading SH, and you will be, your next book should ideally be the short stories in the The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. This is the order in which they were written and the character introduced to readers in the late 19th century.
This work is a real page turner with 12 chapters – the 12th and final chapter takes up almost 25% of the novel and is the back story which shows the motivation and context for the crime – much like part 2 in Study in Scarlet. The story begins by introducing us to Holmes between cases, where he may sit around all day, everyday, injecting himself with his 7% solution of cocaine to pass the time. Yes, cocaine was legal back then and even Freud prescribed it to patients and used it himself – no wonder he was obsessed with sex. Of course once a case comes his way he no longer needs cocaine or morphine to pass the time and becomes energized unravelling subtle clues missed by Scotland Yard’s best. Here is an excerpt…
“My mind,” he said, “rebels at stagnation. Give me problems, give me work, give me the most abstruse cryptogram or the most intricate analysis, and I am in my own proper atmosphere. I can dispense then with artificial stimulants. But I abhor the dull routine of existence. I crave for mental exaltation. That is why I have chosen my own particular profession,–or rather created it, for I am the only one in the world.” “The only unofficial detective?” I said, raising my eyebrows. “The only unofficial consulting detective,” he answered. “I am the last and highest court of appeal in detection…”
Regarding this Kindle edition three points. 1) It is well formatted 2) there are NO illustrations in this free version and 3) ‘on my Kindle’ you cannot ‘Go To’ the Table of contents directly but there is a TOC. However, once at the TOC page there are no usable links to each chapter but strangely there are links to each chapter on the Kindle app for both my Mac and my iPhone but I read this story on my new Kindle. No big deal just useful to know but you can’t beat the price. Wonderful read!!!
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Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle, KStJ, DL (22 May 1859 – 7 July 1930) was a British writer best known for his detective fiction featuring the character Sherlock Holmes. Originally a physician, in 1887 he published A Study in Scarlet, the first of four novels about Holmes and Dr. Watson. In addition, Doyle wrote over fifty short stories featuring the famous detective. The Sherlock Holmes stories are generally considered milestones in the field of crime fiction.
Doyle was a prolific writer; his non-Sherlockian works include fantasy and science fiction stories about Professor Challenger and humorous stories about the Napoleonic soldier Brigadier Gerard, as well as plays, romances, poetry, non-fiction and historical novels. One of Doyle’s early short stories, “J. Habakuk Jephson’s Statement”, helped to popularise the mystery of the Mary Celeste.
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