After enjoying all the previous Sherlock Holmes mysteries by Arthur Conan Doyle in quite quick succession, I just had to hold out a little for this, The Sign of the Four, my last original Holmes tale to discover for the first time.
At the beginning of this tale, we find Holmes out of his mind on boredom and drugs, and Watson at the end of his tether with him. Both are overjoyed when the young, pretty Miss Mary Morstan arrives, with the case of her missing father and the exquisite pearls that have been mysteriously gifted to her each year since his disappearance. Now, she has received a letter requesting a secret meeting to discuss how she has been ‘wronged’ and she may bring two friends. So Mary asks if Holmes and Watson will be the two to accompany her – Holmes is roused by what he calls this simple, little mystery and jumps at the chance, only to find the plot thickens at every turn.
As with the previous mysteries, I was fascinated by the workings of Holmes’ mind and his eccentric behaviour, however it is his companion Dr Watson I am always most drawn to. With his down-to-earth narration which makes these stories more relatable for me and, I am sure, many other readers too. In this tale, I particularly liked Watson’s shy, tender behaviour towards their new, pretty client Miss Mary Morstan, and the budding romance that follows – while their courtship may seem a tad too fast for us modern readers, I did believe they had genuine feelings for each other.
This may have been the last Holmes’ mystery for me to read, however it is only Doyle’s second novel to feature his famous, private sleuth. While I have read these mysteries out of order, it has not affected my enjoyment of them at all. While I think the gothic and atmospheric, The Hound of the Baskervilles is still my favourite novel, this was a still an excellently mystery and a thoroughly enjoyable read. With it’s ever twisting and multiplying threads, in fact more crimes and deaths occur, as Holmes’ is still investigating the first crime. I also enjoyed the historical links back to India and the bloody Indian Rebellion of 1857.
Overall, I thought The Sign of the Four was another excellently crafted mystery, which was a perfect read for Autumn and the R.I.P XI reading event. Now I have no new, original Holmes tales to look forward to, I better get going on more of the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes books. Great read.
Have you read this? What is your favourite Sherlock Holmes story?