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The Sign of Four

The Sign of Four

Written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Narrated by David Timson


The Sign of Four

Written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Narrated by David Timson

ratings:
4/5 (106 ratings)
Length:
4 hours
Released:
Nov 1, 2004
ISBN:
9789629545208
Format:
Audiobook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook

Description

The Sign of Four is the second story by Conan Doyle about the exploits of Sherlock Holmes. From the moment Mary Morstan tells Holmes about the mysterious disappearance of her father and the yearly gift of a pearl from an unknown benefactor, Holmes and his companion Watson are involved in an exotic tale of stolen treasure, secret oaths and murder, culminating in a breath-taking chase down the Thames. Holmes is on top form, and Watson falls in love. David Timson won the ‘Audiobook of the Year Award’ for his reading of this, the first Sherlock Holmes novel.
Released:
Nov 1, 2004
ISBN:
9789629545208
Format:
Audiobook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook

About the author

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1859. Before starting his writing career, Doyle attended medical school, where he met the professor who would later inspire his most famous creation, Sherlock Holmes. A Study in Scarlet was Doyle's first novel; he would go on to write more than sixty stories featuring Sherlock Holmes. He died in England in 1930.


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Reviews

What people think about The Sign of Four

3.9
106 ratings / 71 Reviews
What did you think?
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Reader reviews

  • (4/5)
    Opens with Sherlock self-administering class-A drugs intravenously... because he's bored. How very Trainspotting. Another romp through the streets of London or rather down the Thames in this instance. A locked-room mystery instantly solved and love at first sight for Dr. Watson. Charming and fun.
  • (3/5)
    I listened to this book for a few days on my way to/from work, which was easy to do. I hadn't heard of this story before and I'm not really surprised. It was okay, and i liked it, but I don't think I'd bother to listen to it again, or to read it.
  • (4/5)
    The Sign of Four means murder! Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson accompany a beautiful young woman to a sinister assignation. Mary Morstan receives a mystery letter telling her she is a wronged woman. In order to seek justice she's to meet her unknown benefactor, bringing with her two companions. But surprise, surprise, there are others stalking in the fog of London! A one-legged ruffian has revenge on his mind - and his companions, who place no value on human life!
    This story has non-stop action and it's certainly believable (bearing in mind when it was written)- It has a really surprising ending - jewel-thieves at its best. With greed another factor, there is plenty of adventure and mystery to get you turning-over the page. There's also a destination of love for Dr Watson with Mary Morstan!
    Yes, at times it's certainly curious and intriguing.. along with its whodunit theme.
    A well written story with lots of very good description and detail. Some really great characters.


  • (4/5)
    Not quite the classic of Study in Scarlet or Valley of Fear, an adventure that roams to an Indian hard labour camp, where some of the inmates get involved with jewels and crooked British Officers.
  • (4/5)
    3.5 Stars. Didn't enjoy this one as much as the first one.
  • (5/5)
    In Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Sign of Four, which is the second book featuring the famed detective Sherlock Holmes, the authors vivid imagination tells another riveting detective story. The book begins and ends with Sherlock Holmes injecting himself with cocaine simply because he is bored due to not having a murder case to occupy his mind. Readers get to know Holmes and Dr. Watson a little better in this book. The story is so detailed and well conceived that it almost seems real. I will be looking forward to the next installment in this series, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.
  • (2/5)
    After being disappointed with "A Study in Scarlet", I decided to tackle a second Holmes novel in the hopes that things would improve. Sadly, they didn't. I'm not beaten yet - I'll be attempting "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" as my next train-to-work novel - but so far, this doesn't do anything for me.

    There are some good elements here: Holmes of course is an enjoyable response to the crime fiction that existed at the time. His methods of deduction, while sometimes ponderous, are always clever. Unfortunately, there's very little else to be said for this book.

    Watson continues to be an uninteresting narrator; the supporting characters are mostly forgettable, with the exception (oddly) of the police characters, who so far I have found pleasant; and Holmes himself, as many other reviewers seem to note, is at his least likeable here. Obviously, we're supposed to be somewhat confounded by his aloof personality, but his treatment of other members of the human race is extremely off-putting. Like the 2000s versions - Dr. House, etc. - it's supposedly tempered by his desire to help the innocent and fearful, but really the fact that he only seems to have a heart for small children just leads me to assume he is a sociopath.

    And then there is the mystery itself: here, Conan Doyle reveals himself as mostly a pulp writer, it seems. Like "A Study in Scarlet", this mystery is decidedly outlandish: cannibalistic midgets, wooden legs, etc, etc. Yes it's escapism and I accept that, but the problem is these mysteries are almost tailor-made for Sherlock Holmes. No human being could possibly be expected to guess from a simple murder that it involved so many elaborate contrivances and foreign devils. It seems strange to say it, but if Holmes could instead investigate a (complex) drawing-room mystery or the like, I might be drawn into the work more, as this would require him to piece together clues within my human scope of comprehension. I'm not asking for an easy mystery, just one that has more of a human element.

    Anyway, I'll be interested to continue reading the Holmes books (although I may slow down, as I do have the rest of my life), and perhaps find out why he has become such a mythical figure!
  • (4/5)
    This was my second Sherlock Holmes book and I enjoyed it as much as the first. This book introduces us to Holmes' cocaine habit, and Watson meets a girl he likes, so it was nice to have that type of character development. The way Holmes uses logic to solve the crime of the story is again interesting and fun to read. I also liked the bit of history mixed into the story - this time dealing with British rule in India. A quick read and I will continue to read the Holmes' stories in the future.
  • (3/5)
    Liked the book far more than any of the screen adaptations I have seen, well worth the reading.
  • (4/5)
    This one had a lot of the dated language and imagery I'd expect from a Victorian novel unfortunately, so be aware of that going in. Colonialism was strong here. Besides that it had something that I think a lot of the short stories lack, and I really found that fun. The 'high speed boat chase' was absolutely hilarious to me, though I enjoyed it. After reading Lindsey Faye's Sherlock shorts now I'm seeing the constant romanticized descriptions of women and it's just so over the top and ridiculous. I did like seeing Watson and Mary's relationship though, that was very cute. Sadly the mystery in this one was not very mysterious, I was a bit bummed on how simple it worked out to be. Ah well!
  • (2/5)
    Interesting enough story about lost and stolen treasure, interesting characters, poison arrow darts, brilliant deductions, and even some romance for Dr. Watson. Even the First time in the classic Holmes that I recall hearing of his drug use.Normally I love Sherlock Holmes but this one just drug on for me. I'm going to blame it in part of the Audio, the music in between scenes just didn't do it for and I'm guessing I just wasn't in the right frame of mind for some classic Holmes.
  • (3/5)
    A good old comfortable read
  • (4/5)
    So being a Sherlock Holmes newb, I had no idea that Dr. Watson got married. Second book into the series, and Watson gets love struck by the female lead in the story who brings the case to Holmes, and runs off to marry her at the end of the book.

    As a story goes, I really enjoyed this one, because it had ethical dilemmas as well as logical ones. However, this really felt like a rewrite of his first book with the evil Mormon sect, just rather than a tragedy, a successful romance. Some of the plot devices were predictable, which with the feeling of retelling his first book, kept it from being 5 stars for me.

    But you can't help but really enjoy how Holmes comes to his conclusions. It's always fun to see how he logically connects each piece of the mystery, and as a reader, it gets you thinking how Doyle created the mystery, and wondering how he put the story together in such a way, that as a reader, you can't piece it together until Holmes explains it.

    Delightful.
  • (3/5)
    I enjoyed this; though I probably laughed more - at the sexism, racism, and general ethnocentrism ingrained in the text - than Sir Arthur intended, it's an engaging, well-written little caper with some great chase scenes and iconic bits of dialogue.
  • (5/5)
    If the first paragraph doesn't hook you, I don't know what will: "Sherlock Holmes took his bottle from the corner of the mantlepiece, 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 shirtcuff. 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 armchair with a long sigh of satisfaction." (p. 1)That's right, The Sign of the Four opens with Sherlock Holmes injecting cocaine out of boredom. And things just rocket on ahead from there - the story is fast paced, tightly plotted, and infinitely interesting. A young woman arrives at 221B Baker Street seeking Holmes' help. For the past six years she has received expensive pearls from an anonymous patron, but suddenly her benefactor wants to meet in person. This leads to the discovery of a grisly corpse, and Holmes and Watson are soon running down London's streets in a mad search for a peg-legged killer and his cannibalistic accomplice. Conan Doyle balances the grisly murder elements and the intricate mystery plot with the delightful eccentrics of Holmes' character - not only his well-known penchant for piecing together the most minute bits of evidence and outsmarting the official investigators - but we also see his talent for disguises. He even fools his dearest friend, Watson (and is childishly pleased with himself as a result!) And it's nice to know that our heroes don't always have to take themselves too seriously:[After realizing their dog has lead them down the wrong trail when pursuing the killers.] "Sherlock Holmes and I looked blankly at each other and then burst simultaneously into an uncontrollable fit of laughter." (p. 74)Then the climax comes in the form of an epic boat chase. Seriously. Epic. Boat. Chase. And Watson falls in love with a woman whom Sherlock Holmes thinks would have made a good detective ("I think she is one of the most charming young ladies I ever met and might have been most useful in such work as we have been doing. She had a decided genius that way." ) (p. 152) Though, in forming an emotional attachment to Watson, Holmes despairs of either of them being any use to him ever again. So he goes back to the cocaine."'For me,'" said Sherlock Holmes, "'there still remains the cocaine-bottle.'" And he stretched his long white hand up for it." (p. 153) Conan Doyle wraps everything up in a very trim 153 page novel that is still fresh and exciting, even over a hundred years since it was written. Amazing. He is truly one of the masters of the craft. Highly recommended.
  • (5/5)
    Outstanding narration. I listened as I followed with the book. A true page turner.
  • (3/5)
    I really like the stories of Sherlock Holmes but this one was awful for me and great at the same time. The racism here is explicit and ruins the story.
  • (4/5)
    This is my least favorite of all the Sherlock Holmes novels. I’d probably give it 3.5 stars, if we had half-star ratings. What I liked: Even though its tone is very dark, it fits the story, since this novel is all about the evils of colonialism. Its villain is well fleshed out, as are the supporting characters. It’s got a strong female character, whom Sherlock even praises for her “genius” (his word). There is some good humor here, too, as when Watson, overcome by Mary’s beauty, gets tongue-tied and says some really goofy things. There is subtlety here, too, with Sherlock’s character. He seems vulnerable here in a way that he generally doesn’t, and I get the strong impression that he is lying to Watson when he mentions how little notice he (Holmes) takes of the opposite sex. He seems very much affected by women, both here and in later stories, and his denial seems forced, almost desperate. There’s definitely some room for interepretation here. My impression is that Holmes likes being in control of everything, and women, who can prompt strong emotional reactions in men, are a threat to that control. And I really love that Doyle went out of his way on a couple different occasions to mention Watson’s limp. His army backstory is a constant presence here, and it adds still more depth to an already interesting character. And romance! Watson does not talk about himself enough in these stories, so it was nice seeing him get a love story here.What I didn’t like: Okay, I’m gonna come right out and say it. Sherlock is mean to Watson! This is the story where he crosses the line from lovably egotistical to just plain rude, and Watson must really love this man to keep on forgiving him like that. I do like that Holmes’ behavior isn’t excused; Watson really IS hurt by the comments, and Holmes even apologizes in one place. But Holmes’ egotism and self-centeredness reach their peak in this story, and that can be difficult. I also didn’t like how bleak everything turned out. So many characters are corrupt, and even the decent ones aren’t always great, and most elements of the story don’t really end well (although some do). There is a fairly long flashback scene near the end, but it doesn’t really add much. It doesn’t really make the villain more sympathetic; neither does it flesh out the victim in any meaningful way. The flashback in “Scarlet” did both of these things. Although this book has some beautiful moments, it’s just not my cup of tea.
  • (4/5)
    An enjoyable and entertaining mystery.
  • (3/5)
    I'm not typically a fan of Sherlock Holmes, but this one struck a chord in me. The plot was well-paced, Holmes and Watson were good, breathing characters and the conclusion was satisfactory. Everything that I had come to expect from these sorts of tales was there and there were even moments of surprise amidst the mystery and adventure that Doyle took me on. Overall, a good book and one that should not be missed.3.25 stars.
  • (4/5)
    Thoroughly enjoyed this book. Anxious to get to the next one. Was a bit surprised to see that SH is a coke head.
  • (3/5)
    I didn't think that this story was as good as the short stories in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes or The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. The romance of Dr. Watson was a nice subplot, though.
  • (3/5)
    I enjoyed this; though I probably laughed more - at the sexism, racism, and general ethnocentrism ingrained in the text - than Sir Arthur intended, it's an engaging, well-written little caper with some great chase scenes and iconic bits of dialogue.
  • (5/5)
    Excellent for what it is, of course. This is the second Holmes novella, fits the formula perfectly, and is enjoyable from beginning to end. It features a locked room mystery (sort of), the usual mysteries that had their origin overseas, and even a little romantic interest for Watson. It is not quite as confounding and mysterious, nor is the solution quite as satisfying, as many of the later Holmes stories. But still excellent.
  • (4/5)
    This is the second Sherlock Holmes novel. I was surprised to find that Holmes was already using cocaine this early in the series. I had been told in class that Conan Doyle had introduced Holmes' drug use in order to make him less likable, because he didn't wish to continue writing about him. That seems an unlikely motive for the second published work, so I guess I can throw that theory out the window.The client in this story is Mary Morstan, whose father disappeared under mysterious circumstances and who is now receiving very strange letters from an anonymous benefactor. This is learned to be Thaddeus Sholto, whose father had hidden a treasure that Miss Morstan's father also had a claim to. The treasure is located by Thaddeus Shoto's brother Benjamin, and when Holmes, Watson and Miss Morstan go with Thaddeus to his brother's home, they find Benjamin dead inside a locked bedroom with the windows all locked shut. Homes deduces the means of the killers' entry and exit and uses a dog to follow the trail, as well as his Baker Street Irregulars. He even uses a disguise to do a bit of snooping himself. This, of course, is what pays off. Once the killer is caught, he relates his whole tale to Holmes, Watson, and Inspector Athelny Jones.There is a bit of a love story in this one too: Watson and Mary fall in love and are engaged by the end of the book. Holmes sighs at Watson's decision to marry since love is so illogical, but he pays Mary the compliment in saying that she "had a decided genius in that way," meaning in investigative work. Quite high praise coming from him.I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am looking forward to reading the next in the series.
  • (5/5)
    Been a while since I read even a short novel or novella in one day, but I did it with The Sign Of Four. Thoroughly enjoyed it and nice to read the original after seeing so many adaptations on tv. Great stuff.
  • (2/5)
    mostly of interest to me for the wildly extravagant racism and the portrayal of drug use.
  • (2/5)
    Meh. Dr. Watson's romance was pretty much the only interesting thing about this particular book. At least it was short.
  • (3/5)
    A young woman appeals to Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson for help. During the course of the investigation, the detective and his friend are called upon to solve a locked-room murder and discover the story of the disappearance of the Agra treasure from India over twenty years ago.I believe this novella was written at the start of Conan Doyle's career, and it shows: the pacing is quite uneven, and individual plot strands are quite preposterous. Still, some of the usual Sherlock Holmes trademarks are there: the bumbling police inspector out of his depth, the use of the Baker Street irregulars, Holmes's drug use and playing of the violin, Watson being used as a sounding board for the great detective's fanciful - yet inevitably accurate - ideas. This story introduces the character of Mary Morstan, who later becomes Watson's wife, but has otherwise little to say or do, apart from being the subject of Watson's immediate adoration. One for completists.
  • (4/5)
    A quick, easy and straight-forward read. I liked how the solutions were doled out in bits & pieces as the story progressed. Sherlock Holmes remains my favorite cocaine-addicted detective. LOL!!