The Sign of the Four

img_5999Book: The Sign of the Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Date Read: April 4 to April 10, 2018

Rating: 4 (of 5) stars

Despite the relatively high rating that I gave this book, I struggle with it a bit. I tend to be more of a crime TV watcher than a crime novel reader. It usually frustrates me to spend so long reading a book to find the resolution of this type of story line, but I find the Sherlock Holmes stories I have read to be an appropriate length to keep my attention. The problem is… Sherlock Holmes.

I like the idea of Sherlock Holmes, but I have to be honest, I really do not like him as a character. He is arrogant, obnoxious, and talks down to everyone, even those for whom he purports to have some level of respect. Every day life is just too mundane, and a murder isn’t really worth solving unless there’s something complicated about it. Sure, he’s a brilliant detective, but who has the patience to read a novel where the main character is constantly taunting: “I know the answer, but I’m not going to tell it to you because the pieces don’t fit perfectly yet… can’t you figure it out on your own?”

That all being said, I love Watson as narrator. He is able to convey the excitement and suspense of the case, with just enough impatience for Holmes antics that it makes the reader not feel so bad for disliking him. While certainly not the detective that Holmes is, Watson is intelligent enough to be a few steps ahead of the police in following Holmes’ breadcrumbs toward the resolution. Watson is the balance that is needed to make these stories enjoyable for me.

Perhaps so far I have cheated you a bit in this being a book review. I have mostly commented on Sherlock Holmes in general, rather than specifics to this book. With such a well known character/series, it’s hard to talk about a single story in isolation, and I feel a bit at a disadvantage as this is only the second of these stories that I have read. From what I have read from others, this particular story seems to be considered fairly mediocre in the grand scheme of Sherlock Holmes. Seems fair enough. While I enjoyed the book, I do have a hard time imagining Holmes to become the sensation that he was if all of the stories were like this. However, in comparing this to the other that I have read (A Study in Scarlet), I think I slightly prefer the balance obtained in this story. A Study in Scarlet was too disjointed– the story of Holmes solving the mystery, and the explanation of the mystery, were entirely separate. The backstory to the mystery of The Sign of the Four was much better integrated.

Boris’s thoughts: “This review has taken you much too long to write, it’s cutting into my lap time. 1 paw.”

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