I used to read a lot of Sherlock Holmes stories. Of course, this was years ago and I think I must have overdid it because I avoided Conan Doyle for years. Like the plague. Then I came across a few short stories when purging the shelves and thought it would be nice to take a look again, and it turns out, I still like me a bit of Sherlock and his handy sidekick, Doctor Watson. Feeling confident, I downloaded The Sign of Four from The Gutenberg Project and decided I would get re-acquainted with the duo. Not so much joy ensued.
Here’s the general overview: a man has gone missing, a treasure has been misplaced, and Sherlock is asked to stick his nose in and sort out the conflicting mess. It’s wildly more complicated than that but I’ll be honest, I couldn’t get into this one and barely trudged to the end. The mystery was bland to me and this is supposed to be one his most revered Sherlockian works. People supposedly love this one and to a high degree I might add.
I may not have had much interest in the actual mystery but what I did find interesting in this story was the drug use. Yep, right at the start Sherlock is getting high on cocaine (I have so little opportunity to quote the Grateful Dead let me revel in it!). It made me wonder why anyone would hire someone who seemed, at least here, to be mildly stoned for most of the day to solve a mystery. Also of interest, we get to meet the future Mrs. Watson.
I want to tell you more but I fear that my boredom with the story will cause me to give too much away. Besides, there are many favorable reviews of this book out there that if you like Sherlock, google it then read it. It might do wonders for you. If I may though, I’d recommend The Hound of the Baskervilles. It’s still my favorite.
The Sign of Four
By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Gutenberg Project Ebook
4 thoughts on “Thoughts – The Sign of Four”
Yes, the drug habit surprised me, too. I read this in 2011 as part of a thing for Ravelry. I hadn’t read any Sherlock in ages, as you say, and the drug use surprised the heck out of me. It was an excellent and interesting experience to read, lots of interesting bits of Victorian age to chew on, but turns out that Four was not my fave after having gone on to read other Sherlocks. Baskervilles is my favorite, too.
The Baskervilles is pretty much my standard but there were a few other short stories that I enjoyed. This one, besides the drug use, held little of interest. You’re very right about the Victorian details; that’s one of the reason I come back to these stories every once in a while.
I used to read a lot of Sherlock Holmes, too, after being introduced to The Hound of the Baskervilles in high school. It had been years since I thought about SH when I discovered all of the episodes on Netflix (with various actors from years ago to pretty recent). My husband and I quickly found we loved the stories with Jeremy Britt as SH and watched them all. There are some great stories, some good and some weird and boring. Sign of th Four was a good story but not close to the best….anyway, I found a copy of all of the stories in B&N one day last year and bought them. And I was really disappointed with some of the stories, they just weren’t as good as I expected. I haven’t read them all, yet, but I found there’s a lot of detail, sometimes too much and some of the “mysteries” aren’t much of anything. I read or triedt o read The Sign of the Four and tired of it pretty quickly. I actually dnf’d which is something I rarely do.
I don’t think cocaine had quite the stigma it does today. SH usually only uses it when he’s bored and nothing is stimulating his mind, hence his desire for cases to solve. I also think SH had such a good reputation for ferretting out the truth that people ignored his bad habits (if thy even knew about them). And then there’s Dr. Watson who is always trying to divest SH of his ‘stash’ or convince him to give it up.
I’m sorry you, too, were disappointed by The Sign of the Four. If you have the opportunity, watch some of the Sherlock Holmes stories with Jeremy Britt, I hope you do and I hope you like them.
I also apologize for my very lengthy comment :o)
I keep meaning to watch the shows but I never get around to it but I know some are worth the effort so I must get myself in motion for that. I’ll have to see about getting some of the Jeremy Britt ones.
You’re right about the drug use. The stigma isn’t there and while Watson does seem to think there is some detriment to his use (he does try and take it away) I don’t think he thinks about lasting harm. If he does I missed it. Either way, I was just surprised by it.
No need for apologies; love long comments!