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The Sign of Four: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery Paperback – Feb 7 2011

4.5 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 86 pages
  • Publisher: Createspace; Reprint edition (Feb. 7 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451562462
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451562460
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 0.6 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 23 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #3,272,086 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


Perhaps the greatest of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries is this: that when we talk of him we invariably fall into the fancy of his existence -- T. S. Eliot --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.

From the Back Cover

Arthur Conan Doyle’s second Sherlock Holmes novel is both a detective story and an imperial romance. Ostensibly the story of Mary Morstan, a beautiful young woman enlisting the help of Holmes to find her vanished father and solve the mystery of her receipt of a perfect pearl on the same date each year, it gradually uncovers a tale of treachery and human greed. The action audaciously ranges from penal settlements on the Andaman Islands to the suburban comfort of South London, and from the opium-fuelled violence of Agra Fort during the Indian ‘Mutiny’ to the cocaine-induced contemplation of Holmes’ own Baker Street.

This Broadview Edition places Doyle’s tale in the cultural, political, and social contexts of late nineteenth-century colonialism and imperialism. The appendices provide a wealth of relevant extracts from hard-to-find sources, including official reports, memoirs, newspaper editorials, and anthropological studies.

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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4.5 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition
Mary Morstan becomes a client for Sherlock Holmes and a very beautiful and interesting lady for Dr. John Watson. She reports that her father, Captain Arthur Morstan, has disappeared. However, the disappearance was not recent … it was ten years before when he’d telegraphed her to meet him at the Langham Hotel in London. Once there, she was informed he’d not returned to the hotel from the night before. Later, she begins receiving anonymous packages – one for the past six years – each containing a precious pearl inside.

Holmes, Watson, and Mary set up a meeting with Thaddeus Sholto. He was the son of her father’s best friend, Major John Sholto. He confirms that his father had met with Morstan on the night he died. They had quarreled over treasure Sholto had brought back from India. Sholto confesses to his two twin sons, Thaddeus and Bartholomew, that he’d murdered Morstan. Before giving them the location of the treasure, they were purposefully distracted. When they returned to their father, he’d been killed. A note was left upon him, “The Sign of Four”.

This is the second novel of Sherlock Holmes written by Arthur Conan Doyle and published in 1890. It is the first which details Sherlock Holmes use of cocaine, or as he would put it, his seven percent solution. I felt the pace in this full-length story tapered off mid-way, but picked back up toward the end. As always, I enjoyed Holmes’ powers of deduction. The story is more convoluted than A Study in Scarlet. The contemporary adage of ‘follow the money’ seems to have been just as true in the late 1800’s as it is today.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've already read the Sherlock Holmes stories, but after watching Sherlock on BBC with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.
The intro by Martin Freeeman, adds a new spark to these wonderful mystery stories.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Excellent book set in the backdrop of the Canadian North. I won't give any spoilers about the story. However, about Costello: He's an excellent, engaging writer, who much to my amazement obviously uses the services of a reputable editor. This is so rare with Indies, the likes of which I find myself tiring of all the "sifting" required to find a good storyline that stretches beyond a sixth grader's grammatical ability. This story was great! Also just finished Last Call by Costello, which was even more exiting than Squall.
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Format: Paperback
Published in 1890, "The Sign of Four" was Doyle's second work, featuring the legendary detective Sherlock Holmes. The first chapter is appropriately titled "The Science of Deduction", and serves as a wonderful introduction to the enigmatic man and his methods. Holmes asserts that there are "three qualities necessary for the ideal detective", namely knowledge, the power of observation, and the power of deduction. Holmes' abilities at observation are superb, as evidenced by some of the books he's produced on obscure topics like the tracing of footsteps, the influence of a trade on the form of a hand, or the enumeration of 140 forms of cigar, cigarette and pipe tobacco ash. He is careful to distinguish mere observation from clear deductive reasoning, and it is the latter which really is the essence of Holmes. To him the only thing that is important is "the curious analytical reasoning from effects to causes" by which he unravels a case. Already in the opening, he demonstrates his powers of deduction by coming to stunning and perfectly logical conclusions about Watson's brother, merely by seeing his watch. What is obscure to everyone, is of course perfectly obvious to Holmes: "so absurdly simple that an explanation is superfluous." He is the epitomy of deduction and cold hard reason.
While Holmes is the embodiment of reason, Watson is the embodiment of emotion. Holmes is naturally critical of the emotional and romantic streak in Watson. "Detection is, or ought to be, an exact science and should be treated in the same cold and unemotional manner." When Watson comments on the attractiveness of Holmes' client, he replies "Is she? I did not observe." Completely deprived of emotion, he looks not at beauty, but at cold hard facts.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
"The Sign Of Four", 1890, isn't what I imagined; with no lack of delight in an extraordinary change of pace similar to "A Study In Scarlet. I ignored the distasteful opening and closing statements about Sherlock liking cocaine. However I inferred from the title an exciting mystery that would have us deciphering a code, an ancient language, some environment with a great deal more ambiance than what we find. A journey perhaps into the cave of a foreign land; made by the protagonists in their present day.

Like Arthur Conan Doyle's first novel, a culprit divulges in retrospect; a past obviously at a distance from our protagonists. It is only there that treasure-hunting or foreign travel make a detached appearance. The "four" has no exotic meaning. It merely enumerates the original quest-makers. Sherlock, John, and a borrowed dog do nothing more than try to locate a murderer on foot. They derisively presume they'll do better than the London police. Because there is really nothing more to it, nor was there any danger or personal urgency for this pedestrian investigating party; I didn't feel any suspense whatsoever.

That's a pity because the present day tale held promise. A lovely lady hires the roommates to find her Father. I like that Sherlock admires the astuteness of the clues she deems important enough to bring. She has cryptically been receiving an expensive pearl by mail for years. She is certain it is a form of compensation for her Father's part in a treasure; of minor importance against knowing what happened to him. These are the makings of an extraordinary adventure, a ball that was regretfully dropped. It is the earliest portions that are a little bit enchanting. I always manage to admire the originality of the stories and the absolutely impeccable, lyrical writing.
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