Conan Doyle, Arthur: (02) The Sign of Four

Read a few things over the weekend. First, I finished The Sign of Four, by Arthur Conan Doyle. This is the second Holmes/Watson novel, and considerably better than the first, as it doesn’t derail in the middle for unnecessary exposition. I’m a little puzzled by the title, since most of the time the phrase appears in the story, it’s as the Sign of the Four. Doyle definitely likes the sensational; the introduction calls it “a rousing Grand Guignol of a mystery involving lost treasure, grotesque twins, [and other things that are spoilers].” My understanding of “Grand Guignol” is that it’s even more over the top than this, but one can’t dispute the characterization otherwise. I should note that it’s an ongoing explanation type of mystery, however, not the one-big-revelation sort. (I don’t think the chase scene is as good as the writer of the introduction does, though.)

In character news: Holmes, still sporadically annoying. Watson, still a pretty good bloke. Mary, Watson’s eventual wife: does, indeed, possess a name, though barely has a personality, though Holmes does give her something of a compliment at the end (I note that Irene Adler makes her appearance in the very next story). Somehow, it fails to surprise me that Doyle should not do romance well.

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