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The Sign of Four (Penguin Classics) [Paperback]

Arthur Conan Doyle
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (109 customer reviews)
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Book Description

6 Mar 2008 Penguin Classics

A dense yellow miasma swirls in the streets of London as Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson accompany a beautiful young woman to a sinister assignation.

For Mary Marston has received several large pearls – one a year for the last six years – and now a mystery letter telling her she is a wronged woman. If she would seek justice she is to meet her unknown benefactor, bringing with her two companions.

But unbeknownst to them all, others stalk London’s fog-enshrouded streets: a one-legged ruffian with revenge on his mind – and his companion, who places no value on human life …

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Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (6 Mar 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141034378
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141034379
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 11.1 x 18.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (109 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 288,248 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


In this erudite and provocative edition, Shafquat Towheed offers fans of both Sherlock Holmes and Arthur Conan Doyle an intricate account of the intertextual histories at the heart of The Sign of Four. Arguing for the inextricability of its colonial plots with its work as detective fiction, Towheed builds a persuasive case for The Sign of Four as Mutiny fiction, positioning it as pivotal to the imperial career of 'British' fiction per se. Readers of this edition will be gripped by the colonial pathways Towheed reveals, the politics of citation he uncovers, and the entanglement of home and empire he tracks in the making of the novel. This is postcolonial interpretation at its very best. --Antoinette Burton

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 an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

As Watson falls in love and Sherlock Holmes battles his darker habits, the two men once again tackle a case of baffling complexity

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Sherlock Holmes took his bottle from the corner of the mantelpiece, and his hypodermic syringe from its neat morocco case. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely gripping! 26 May 2004
In this, the second Sherlock Holmes story written by Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes is called upon by a young lady who needs the great detective's help with a mystery. However, when this mystery leads to murder, Holmes must seek to uncover secrets that have lain hidden for many years, and have their roots in treacheries upon treacheries in far-off India. There's a one-legged man who is at the center of this mystery, and he has a murderous friend who may just be the end of Sherlock Holmes!
As I said, this is the second ever Sherlock Holmes story, written in 1890. As with the very best of the Holmes story, this one is absolutely gripping, carrying a fascinating story with mysteries wrapped up in mysteries that only Mr. Holmes can possibly conquer. As an added bonus, in this story, we get to learn about Dr. Watson's meeting of his true love, and his eventual marriage - which should end some rumors that people spread.
Yep, this is a great story, one that is sure to please any fan of mysteries, and is certain to delight any Sherlock Holmes fan!
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another Intriguing Mystery 31 Aug 2001
"The Sign of Four" is the second of Conan Doyle's four longer Sherlock Holmes stories - I wouldn't call it a novel, because it's shorter even than the other three.
The level of detection and the intrigue surrounding the mystery is as clever as ever, and possibly more complex than in its predecessor, "A Study in Scarlet". The structure of the book could be seen as a little clumsy, with the story of Small tacked onto the end as an extra thirty pages - but using the first-person viewpoint like he does, there was no other way for Conan Doyle to integrate it into the story.
This story is also worth reading for its long-term developments in the Holmes stories. We learn of Holmes' cocaine addiction and his reasoning behind it. This is also where Watson meets his wife, which - along with the treasure seeking - makes it the more romantic of the longer stories. The relationship is hardly developed realistically, but Conan Doyle always seems to sacrifice character development in favour of brilliant plots.
If you simply enjoy the mystery and try not to think about such things, the book is very good indeed. It's a very easy read; Conan Doyle's style flowing brilliantly and so offering a perfect form of escapism.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb reading by Derek Jacobi 23 July 2012
Format:Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Derek Jacobi has one of those voices that you just want to listen to. I have enjoyed several audiobooks which he has narrated and can now add The Sign Of Four to my collection. This is one of four full length Sherlock Holmes novel that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote - the other three being A Study In Scarlet, The Hound Of The Baskervilles and The Valley Of Fear. The Sign Of Four has been adapted several times for film, radio and television. The story sees Holmes and Watson investigating the case of Mary Marston who has received a large pearl each year for the last 6 years. She has now received a letter telling her she is a wronged woman. If she wants to seek justice and meet her mysterious benifactor and bring two companions. She turns to Holmes and Watson. Obviously there is alot more to the plot but I won't spoil it for you.

This 4 cd set runs at 4 hours and 30 minutes. The cds are nicely packaged in a plastic amery style case. If you enjoy a good mystery then why not let Derek Jacobi be your guide into the mystery of The Sign Of Four.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Poor formatting 20 Feb 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
All lines are left justified, which is more readable than centre justified but you get occasional strange new-lines,
hanging words and other glitches. Select the version with bales of hay on the cover for a readable version.


Mark T.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dark, dated and (some what) delicious! 2 Nov 2012
By i wrote this TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
A fairly typical sleuth story with some moments of greatness. What interested me most about the Sign of the Four was which elements of the story have dated and which haven't. The plot itself is very predictable now, it may have been ground breaking at the time. It's a tale of ill gotten treasure from the mysterious east and skulduggery that stretches from country houses to the Thames. You've heard it all before, for better or worse. What really dates it is the portrayal of the Indian characters, prepare to be offended if you are sensitive to this kind of thing - Conan Doyle's descriptions of savages certainly doesn't mark him out as a progressive humanitarian, even for his day.
The characterization of Holmes however is the most interesting part of the story. He's an unapologetic drug user who finds that the only things that stimulate him are mysteries and crack cocaine. It makes for interesting stuff.
Derek Jacobi (the patron saint of audiobooks) does a bang up job as ever.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was at a dinner on 30th August 1889 with (amongst others) Oscar Wilde and JM Stoddart. Conan Doyle called this a "golden evening" in this autobiography.

Never heard of Mr Stoddart? Few people have.

Mr Stoddart was the Managing Editor of the US monthly magazine "Lippincott" and was the man who commissioned Conan Doyle to write "The Sign of the Four". In 1890, Conan Doyle had fulfilled the commission and, "The Sign of the Four" and it was published in the US and the UK. Wilde wrote and submitted "The Picture of Dorian Gray" as his part of the commission.

Interestingly the story has changed its name a number of times: "The Sign of the Four", "The Sign of Four", "Sign of the Four" and "Sign of Four". It is now back to the original "The Sign of the Four".

The story:

Miss Mary Marston has received one large pearl every year for the past 6 years. Mary believed that it was from her missing father, but after receiving a strange note she is no-longer sure. Holmes is intrigued and Watson is enamoured.

It is not one of Conan Doyle's greatest stories (probably because it was completed as a commission), but it is still enjoyable.

Sir Derek Jacobi reads the story with superb aplomb.

It is 4 hour 30 minutes spread over 4 discs, and is superb for those days when you want to shut yourself off from the world and listen to the exploits of the World's First Consulting Detective.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic locked room mystery!
Mary Morstan, Major Sholto, Holmes' substance abuse, Agra - all things you should recognize if you have seen series 3 of Sherlock. Read more
Published 1 month ago by mamadonna
5.0 out of 5 stars Htolmes
As I remember the first time I read this book, a gripping tale. Sir Arthur's inimitable way of story telling gripping to the end.
Published 1 month ago by DavidH
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant!!!
Loved everything about it!! The adventure, the mystery, the romance, it was fantastic and I will be reading more of the series!!
Published 1 month ago by cm86
4.0 out of 5 stars Arthur Conan Doyle - The Sign of Four
Having been a long time fan of crime fiction I felt it only necessary that I should have a look at the Holmes and Watson series, where undeniably the detective genre truly began in... Read more
Published 1 month ago by molko
5.0 out of 5 stars Incrediblely good
An amazing novel that was inspired. I loved every minute of it. They don't knight you for writing bad book!
Published 1 month ago by DANTE
5.0 out of 5 stars Holmes at his best
Great reading ,Doyle at his best.ALL his stories get one infatuated with tension.Can't hardly bare to to stop reading it or any of his tales.
Published 1 month ago by Pops
5.0 out of 5 stars Good book
This book is a great quality item. Everyone who likes these stories will love the book. The book as it was said is with the original stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle not the BBC... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Kaspars
4.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant book
I loved this book because it was funny fast paced and interesting. I got lost in some parts but I still enjoyed it
Published 2 months ago by Charlotte Humphrey
4.0 out of 5 stars A great book
I initially downloaded this book simply because it was free but after reading just a few pages I was instantly hooked.
Published 2 months ago by Jason Reeves
5.0 out of 5 stars Holmes the great
fantastic story which exposes holmes' darker side with descriptions of his drug use. the case itself is, as ever, is pretty straight forward. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Tony Nichol
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