Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Sign of Four - Arthur Conan Doyle

Rating : 8/10

The Sign of Four is one of the most famous cases of Sherlock Holmes and it is as good as it is hyped to be. It's been a while since I read Sherlock Holmes and The Sign of Four was the best book I could have read to help me return to my Holmes addiction. 

A young governess Mary Morstan, whose father vanished ten years ago, has been receiving valuable gifts anonymously for several years and that anonymous person wants to meet her now. Scared, she asks Sherlock Holmes and his faithful side-kick Dr. Watson to accompany her to meet the stranger. What seems at first to be a simple case, transforms to one of deep intrigue and drama with Holmes on the trail of a killer on the loose, while seeking to interpret The Sign of Four.  

The thing I love about Arthur Conan Doyle's mysteries is that the plot is often very simple and realistic. This is the case with The Sign of Four. The plot is basic, the suspects are narrowed down very soon and you know your killers. But how this conclusion is drawn, not by a few fiery escapades or convenient deus ex machina, but by the calm, clear, extraordinary brilliance of  logic, is the key. Sherlock Holmes is quite the character - no fuss, no indulgence in theatrics, but very understated and brilliant. 

I liked the flashback in this story: though long, it was satisfying and Conan Doyle's writing is a pleasure to read. I didn't care much about the supposed 'romance' between Mary Morstan and Dr. Watson. I was more interested in Holmes solving the mystery. Which he did, in inimitable style. The Sign of Four is very good, but certainly not as thrilling as one of my favourite books ever, The Hound of the Baskervilles. Having said that though, I definitely recommend this book to all mystery lovers! Holmes is the real deal. 

This is part of my reading for the Marple Poirot Holmes Challenge. Ever since my reading spree about everything India started, I can't help but notice how every book I pick, even unintentionally, seems to have an India-related plot line :)

ETA: I just realized that this is part of my Celebrate the Author challenge too. Arthur Conan Doyle's birthday falls on May 22 and this is my celebration for him, well in advance :D 


Shweta said...

I haven't read this one. Need to find and read it. Nice review

Anonymous said...

I love this one :) This is such a fun challenge that you have taken up! I wish I had never read Holmes and Poirot so that I can enjoy them all over again with the same thrills

Angela said...

I've never read that book before - and it's not the kind of book I would normally read - but it sounds interesting so maybe I should branch out a bit and try it.

Thanks for the review.

Alison said...

I am almost ashamed to admit that I have never read any Sherlock Holmes...or Agatha Christie. I think part of the reason is that I almost feel like I have because of the many tv adaptations and films of them all. BUT, there is no substitution for reading the books. Thank you for prompting me to do something I've been meaning to do for a long time! I shall let you know how I get on with my first Sherlock Holmes story soon...!

Alyce said...

I haven't read this book, but I do enjoy a good Sherlock Holmes mystery. I love all of the details and logic in the mystery. Now that I think about it, it's a lot like those horrid CSI shows, but without all of the gore and yuckiness.

christa @ mental foodie said...

I haven't read any Sherlock Holmes (in English anyway) - do you have to read them in order? Same questions for the Agatha Christie's books too...

this sounds like a good one to read tho :)

Kals said...

Shweta - Thanks! I hope you enjoy the book :)

Nishita - True. But I love rereading my favourite authors so I'm enjoying this challenge a lot :D

Angie - Oh yes, give it a try! It will at least make one book checked off your classics to-read list ;)

Alison - I'd love to know your thoughts about Holmes, Poirot and Marple. It's never too late :) I saw the movie first for several classics like Pride and Prejudice and then read the book and fell in love with the book for life!

Alyce - LOL, yeah. No gore or yuckiness. Just a lot of logic and class :P

Christa - No, there's no pre-condition that you have to read it in order, but it will be much more of a fun ride and will help you catch references to previous books. Same holds for Christie's books too. You don't need to read in order, but you'll enjoy it more that way, I guess :)

Anonymous said...

Kals-This is on my list for the challenge, along with The Adventure of the Speckled Band, for the Holmes portion.

Kals said...

Meg - I haven't seen you in a while! Welcome back :) I'm sure you'll like it. The Adventure of the Speckled Band is another of my favourites, next only to the Mystery of the Dancing Men :)

Anonymous said...

I haven't read Sherlock Holmes stories for so long--I'm anxious to get going on the challenge! I gave my volume of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's complete Sherlock Holmes to my son for his library--I'm going to have to ask for it back!! Nice review and spot on. :)

Kals said...

Thank you :) I have a complete Sherlock Holmes book too, that my Dad got for my birthday - it is such a treasure! I hope you get back the book soon and start reading :)


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