Book: The Sign of Four

"The Sign of Four"

Sherlock Holmes is roused from drug-induced depression by a beautiful young woman. Her name is Mary Morstan and every year since the mysterious disappearance of her father, she has received a lustrous pearl. Now her anonymous benefactor has requested a meeting and she wants Holmes and Watson to accompany her. Together they uncover a story that began in far-off India with unimaginable treasures and terrible betrayal.

I’ve gone and read another Sherlock Holmes novel!

All right, confession time. I didn’t really pick this book up because I was intrigued with the story. All I know of this story was that Watson meets the woman he will eventually marry. The real reason I picked up this book was because it featured a nice cover–and an introduction by Martin Freeman.

The introduction is actually just the actor talking about being a fan of the fictional detective, of being asked to audition for the modern adaptation by BBC, and his initial hesitation at accepting the part of John Watson. That’s actually more interesting than The Sign of Four.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been spoiled by the modern adaptation, with its mile-a-minute exposition that really dazzles, or maybe it’s just because The Sign of Four isn’t as engaging as any of the other Sherlock Holmes stories. This one bored me a little.

But, I must say, the synopsis is really well-written. It does lead you on into thinking that this book is about the mystery of the pearls that Mary Morstan receives. Well, it is–and yet, it also isn’t. How do I say this? The mystery Mary Morstan introduces is not the actual mystery that we need to solve. In fact, Miss Morstan’s mystery is no mystery at all.

I do wonder why Sir Arthur Conan Doyle thought it was necessary to include the character of Miss Morstan. Was it really his plan to have Watson fall in love with the woman? If so, for what purpose? In most of the novels I’ve read where Watson is already married, Mary rarely ever plays a big part.

But how do you question an author long dead? I guess this will have to remain a mystery for me–unless someone out there knows the story behind the creation of Mary Morstan.

While me mull that over, let’s go around the ‘net and see what other people have written about The Sign of Four.
The Beauty of Eclecticism
Scott D Parker
Teen Ink

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