The Sign of Four

The second Sherlock Holmes story, once again a novella, opens with our hero injecting himself with cocaine!

First published in Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine in February 1890, Holmes is in a downbeat mood. He needs an intellectual challenge and luckily one appears in the form of Miss Mary Morstan, whose father disappeared ten years ago. Since then she has received an anonymous gift of a pearl every year, along with a note asking her for a meeting to finally see who her mysterious benefactor may be. Holmes and Watson accompany her…

Treasure, murder, twin brothers, poisonous darts and even some romance for Dr Watson are all in the mix. Unlike A Study in Scarlet which diverts to the States for an extended period,┬áthe pace here is a lot quicker, with rooftop action and a chase down the Thames that keep the pages turning. The murder has all the hallmarks of a traditional Holmes puzzle and I can how at the time readers would have been enthralled by the exotic and unusual look at India. Modern readers may need to bite their tongues…

I enjoyed this story that showcases Holmes intellect and his physical attributes while Watson is shown as a caring and thoughtful man who enjoys not only an adventure with his friend but also finds happiness as well.

Next up is the first collection, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and our first short story, A Scandal in Bohemia.

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