You are a wronged woman and shall have justice Do not bring police If you do, all will be in vain Your unknown friend When a beautiful young woman is sent a letter inviting her to a sinister assignation, she immediately seeks the advice of the consulting detective Sherlock Holmes.For this is not the first mysterious item Mary Marston has received in the post Every year for the last six years an anonymous benefactor has sent her a large lustrous pearl Now it appears the sender of the pearls would like to meet her to right a wrong.But when Sherlock Holmes and his faithful sidekick Watson, aiding Miss Marston, attend the assignation, they embark on a dark and mysterious adventure involving a one legged ruffian, some hidden treasure, deadly poison darts and a thrilling race along the River Thames. The narrative begins with a very bored Sherlock Holmes at 221b Baker Street With nothing to focus his incredible powers of deduction on at the present time, he decides to spend his days injecting a seven percent solution of cocaine Conveniently a client with a particularly peculiar and complex case appears that very day The potential customer, Miss Marstan, who wishes to employ the world s only consulting detective explains the scenario On the 4th of May for the last six years, she has received a rare and valuable pearl in the post However, recently she has received an anonymous note from the sender of the jewels saying that they would like to arrange a meeting She asks Holmes advice regarding what she should do Holmes, no longer depressed and bored seems overtaken by a burst of energy and states that himself and Watson will accompany her to the meeting and hopefully shed light on these untypical events Once again written in the guise of Dr Watson s first person perspective, The Sign of Four is my second favourite of Conan Doyle s four full length Sherlock Holmes stories A Study in Scarlet was a good introduction but like many readers, I didn t like the second half of that tale as it didn t focus on everybody s favourite master of deduction In my opinion, Conan Doyle took everything that worked in that novel, structured it better, composed a superior story, and had some colourful characters It also mentions certain elements that build the Sherlock character and his working environment that people nowadays take for granted as being well known facts about the character Such as that he was an exceptional boxer, a highly adept violin player and a master of disguise The Sign of Four also introduces Holmes youthful detective squad The Baker Street Irregulars and a bloodhound Toby who has an amazing sense of smell In fact, Holmes states I would rather have Toby s help than that of the whole detective force of London It was never going to be as simple as Holmes, Watson, and Miss Marston meeting up with the letter s sender and a reasonable explanation being given regarding the pearls Of course not Holmes and Watson soon find themselves trying to figure out the facts behind a locked door murder Sherlock often assists the police in such cases and throughout this tale, the Detective in question is Alatheny Jones Jones is presented as foolish although very excitable, often jumping to rash conclusions that we as readers know are incorrect as Holmes and Watson have just been unraveling the facts and tracked the highly probable sequence of events beforehand Although he is presented as imprudent and maybe even half witted he is very likable and Holmes patience with him is a nice touch He is nothing like the Alatheny Jones that he would later become in Anthony Horowitz s Moriarty where he presents deduction skills that rival those of Sherlock When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth The Sign of Four is an intriguing and exciting entry in the Sherlock Holmes canon It s often thrilling, always detailed and features some amazing set pieces such as a steamboat chase across the River Thames One of my favourite aspects of these detective classics is when Holmes leaves Watson to complete an unknown mission and like the Doctor, us readers are completely left in the dark as to what the sleuth is up to, which works to heighten the emotions felt when it is revealed what he was doing and how it has impacted or benefitted the case Also, like many of these stories, but I think this was the first time it was implemented in the chronological order of the tales releases, the case is often solved before the end of the book At this point, Holmes will interview the perpetrator to get the full story During these instances when you see the other perspective presented, the motives, objectives and past struggles, you may find yourself pitying and feeling sorry for a character who has been nothing but a villain through the whole story The Sherlock Holmes full lengths, barring this one and The Hound of the Baskervilles pale in comparison to many of the short stories but to say that Conan Doyle was perfecting the formula with this entry, I m happy to call it a classic work of literature and a mystery masterpiece And at the end, when Holmes is asked what now remains for him he replies For me, said Sherlock Holmes, there still remains the cocaine bottle. A 82% Very Good Notes Better structured, with character depth than its predecessor, but it feels like a short story padded into a novella. Tsk, Tsk, Tskapparently that s NOT tobacco Sherlock Holmes is smoking You have to love the daring Sir Arthur displayed in this novel vis vis his iconic detective How many writers would have the chutzpah to risk tarnishing the mystique of their signature creation by depicting him shooting cocaine as a cure for boredom Sherlock Holmes took his bottle from the corner of the mantelpiece and his hypodermic syringe from its neat morocco case With his long, white, nervous fingers he adjusted the delicate needle, and rolled back his left shirt cuff For some little time his eyes rested thoughtfully upon the sinewy forearm and wrist all dotted and scarred with innumerable puncture marks Finally, he thrust the sharp point home, pressed down the tiny piston, and sank back into the velvet lined arm chair with a long sigh of satisfaction Now that is what I call an opening paragraph Well played, Mr Doyle I m a big fan of the Sherlock Holmes stories, and one of my favorite aspects of the stories, odd as it might sound, is how thoroughly unlikable Holmes is Let s face it, the man is an asshole He s cold, callous, arrogant, misanthropic, consumed with his own needs, and sociopathic in his lack of empathy for others If it were not for his unparalleled gifts for observation and deduction, there would be nothing to recommend him as a person And that is precisely what makes him so interesting and so much fun to read about He comes across as anti hero than hero, despite the fact that he is not generally classified as such I would argue that he certainly fits under that label, especially now that we can add junkie to his list of flaws Incidentally, suddenly casting Robert Downey, Jr in the role of Holmes makes a whole lot sense Just kidding Anyway, back to the story In addition to introducing readers to the monkey on Sherlock s back, this novel s also noteworthy for being the first appearance of Mary Marston, the beautiful young woman who would go on to be Mr Watson s beard wife Mary calls on Holmes and entices him out of his melancholy with the promise of a challenging mystery involving the strange disappearance of her father many years before Brightened by the prospect of being able to employ his prodigious mental faculties, Holmes acceptsand the game is, once , afoot What ensues is a complex, multi layered plot that, while not my favorite of the Holmes mysteries, was solid enough to keep my interest Starting with nothing but a few flimsy clues, a letter from an anonymous benefactor, and a story with large chunks in it, Holmes proceeds to works his usual magic and mesmerizes all concerned with a dazzling display of crime solving Of course Along the way, Doyle weaves into the narrative an eclectic assortment of supporting players for Holmes and Watson encounter, including a wooden legged villain,a killer with baby feet,a group of criminal with a secret pact,a pair of corrupt prison guards,the Baker Street Irregulars,aboriginal tribesmen with bad attitudes, anda whole host of dead bodies Overall, a solid Holmes mystery with some classic moments of Sherlockian lore, including the first utterance of the famous truism, when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth In comparison to the other two Holmes novels I ve read, I didn t like this quite as much as The Valley of Fear or A Study in Scarlet The main reason for this is simply that I found the mysteries in the former books appealing Still, there is a lot to like here and Holmes manages to to unload quite a few notable quotables He smiled gently It is of the first importance, he said, not to allow your judgment to be biased by personal qualities A client is to me a mere unit, a factor in a problem The emotional qualities are antagonistic to clear reasoning I assure you that the most winning woman I ever knew was hanged for poisoning three little children for their insurance money, and the most repellant man of my acquaintance is a philanthropist who has spent nearly a quarter of a million upon the London poor As I wrap this up, I want to give a final kudo to Doyle for the very end of the novel In my opinion, it could not have been written better and I almost bumped the whole novel up to 4 stars based on it alone Even though it doesn t give away any plot information, I m still going to hide it behind a spoiler tag since it includes the final lines of the novel view spoiler The division seems rather unfair, I remarked You have done all the work in this business I get a wife out of it, gets the credit, pray what remains for you For me, said Sherlock Holmes, there still remains the cocaine bottle And he stretched his long white hand up for it hide spoiler Sherlock Holmes is bored, he hasn t had a new interesting case in quite a while, no big deal you say It is if the man is the notorious self destructive detective the best whoever was, or will be as his arm will clearly reveal.too many injections of mind numbing drugs can testify to this horrible fact, the ugly scars The worried Dr Watson fears for the health of his best friendunable to prevent it, he knows Holmes brain needs constant stimulation otherwise, the inevitable decline into ennui, not moving in the chair, staying in his room unable to function as a human being A sight the kind heart Watson cannot endure At last a strange mystery brought by a young attractive woman , escorted by the tolerant landlady Mrs Hudson Miss Mary Morstan causes Sherlock to move his limbs, the powerful brain begins turning faster and faster we have liftoff , soaring into the unknown universe from the seedy side , an unlimited territory yes the land of the criminals, their greed, nothing is beyond the grasp of those who want wealth without working very hard to accomplish this goal, why should they if only a little killing and stealing will get them this Even Watson feels happy, he likes the nervous lady The Sign of Four begins in actuality in colonial India, convicts in a hellish penal colony in the remote Andaman Islands, far from the Indian coast, the leader of a group of these not very respectable men, a white man and three natives disclose information of hidden treasure buried in a distant fort Stolen from a rich nobleman, during the time of the vast Indian uprising against British rule, in the 19th century, 1857 the owner of these trinkets involved in the late rebellion flees for his life when it..the spirit of freedom is crushed Leaving all the beautiful jewels and exquisite pearls , orphans He that digs them up shall become fabulously rich, nobody except the gang knows where A deal between the convicts and two English officers are solemnly pledged, still there s no honor among thieves as the proverb states so well That is where our friend the eager, Holmes arrives on the scene, Mary who tells the story the little she knows, is the daughter of one of the army officers that struck the bad bargain , as time will show, nevertheless not all gentlemen are honest This will give fans of the Baker Street two, not to forget the irregulars crime fighters a good read Plus an exciting, surreal trip down the Thames And a nice puzzle to solveAfter all Sherlock Holmes is the master