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on 16 May 1999
This collection of stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyles youngest son, Adrian Conan Doyle, in collaboration with American mystery writer John Dickson Carr, are a wonderful treat for anyone who loves the originals! The twelve stories here refer to cases that Doyle made teasing reference to in the original series but never made available to the reading public. The stories are filled with black hearted villians, damsels in distress, atmosphere, and above all, the friendship between Holmes and Watson that have made them the most famous characters in the history of literature. Several stories like "The Adventure of the Deptford Horror" and "The Adventure of the Red Widow" are dark tales of murder; while others such as "The Aventure of the Wax Gamblers" and "The Aventure of the Highgate Miracle" will make you smile. What I enjoyed the most is that the authors have tried to stay true to the characters and didn't try to change them as other writers have done. The stories seem to have been written with one goal in mind, to fill the reader with delight! Originaly written in the early 1950s and out of print for many years, I am happy that Random House has released this once again, and in a Hardbound edition. Come dear reader,"the games afoot!"
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on 31 August 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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HALL OF FAMEon 4 January 2006
There is a long and honoured tradition among mystery writers and fans of the Sherlock Holmes tales of writing one's own mystery. This can take one of several starting points - to take a detail in the canonical stories and develop it more fully (there are a lot of dangling pieces in there), to take the characters of Holmes and Watson (and perhaps others) and involve them in completely new fictional scenarios, or involve the characters in actual historical events. Adrian Conan Doyle, youngest son of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, teamed with veteran mystery writer John Dickson Carr to produce a series of short stories developing themes that came out of the official canon of 56 short stories and four novels.
The background information tells us that these stories were written at Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's own desk, so there is a sense of tactile succession from the official stories to these extra-canonical offerings. Well written, they sometimes lack the same smooth character of the better of the official stories (but then again, some of the official stories vary from the high standard of the better of them to a great degree).
This collection of a dozen stories picks up on details out of 'The Speckled Band', 'Silver Blaze', and many others. One of the glories of the Holmes canon is the in the details - those who love the stories spend hours reading and re-reading to catch new ideas and insights, and will likely be thrilled with the way in which Adrian Conan Doyle and John Dickson Carr have worked in many pieces here.
Half the stories were written by Adrian Conan Doyle himself; the other half were written as a collaboration. I think this is an excellent volume as an extra-canonical addition to the stories. It maintains in good faith the same character of Holmes, Watson, Lestrade and others from the canon; while putting them in new situations, it does not create new personalities or identities or quirks about them, which sometimes prove distracting in some offerings.
The typical fan of Holmes will be pleased, and those new to Holmes will not be misled, and likely be inspired to further reading.
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VINE VOICEon 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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on 29 March 2005
Of the twelve stories, six were written by Adrian Conan Doyle alone and six were written with the American novelist John Dickson Carr.
The stories themselves go a little way to re-creating the feel of Sir Arthur's original 60 stories. They use references to unexplored cases within the original books as a departure point for creating new stories - the so called "unsolved cases" from the original stories.
The six co-written with Carr are definitely the superior, but the further one reads in to the 12 the less comfortable one feels with the use of the Sherlock Holmes brand.
Ultimately, there are 3 complaints that caused me to reject the book outright:
- Of little importance, but annoying nonetheless, it appears from one of the stories that Adrian is unware that "infer" and "imply" have different meanings and should not be confused. The original stories use the word "infer" quite liberally. However, Sir Arthur never confused the use of the word "infer" with the word "imply" - Holmes always inferred from clues that implied. I would guess that Adrian was attempting to keep the feel of the originals by throwing in "infer" whenever he could.
- Of more importance, it should be noted that the phrase "elementary, my dear Watson" is maligned amongst Sherlock Holmes fans for the simple reason that it does not ever appear in the original stories. It was invented as a catchphrase by playwrights writing their own Holmes material during Sir Arthur's life and never adopted for use by the man himself. Adrian's faux pas in having this hackneyed cliche appear is unforgiveable.
- Of absolute importance, by the time the 12th story appears Adrian appears to have run out of ideas. Instead, he sews together elements that have appeared in original Holmes stories and presents it as new story. The main thread of the plot and the method of solving the case is lifted straight from "The Valley of Fear" with no signficant changes. The "mind reading" trick is also a recycled element from the original stories. One wonders if a writer not in the family would have been sued for copyright infringements had they attempted the same in 1954.
After reading all of the original stories, I came to this volume hoping that the family connection would mean I would read something true to the original and with merits of its own. Ultimately, this is merely yet another knock-off that is a shadow of the original stories, together with some terrible annoyances that make me regret ever reading it.
Do yourself a favour and re-read the originals instead of wasting your time on this.
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on 23 February 2015
I'd like to start this off by saying that I have loved almost every incarnation of Sherlock Holmes that I have watched on TV/Movies. There's something about his unique style of detecting that I find fascinating. I went into this with an open mind - I knew that it was written a long time ago, and being honest I don't tend to like the writing from this era - and I was pleasantly surprised when it didn't drag on like I assumed it would.

The story was actually shorter than I had expected but it allowed for the action to move swiftly, for Sherlock to display his detecting skills and show off a little, and let us get to know Watson and the beginning of his relationship with Mary Marsten.

For my first foray into Arthur Conan Doyle's writing, The Sign of Four was a great read. Full of mystery and intrigue, stolen gold and mysterious thieves who can vanish without a trace.

I'll definitely be looking up more Sherlock Holmes stories at some point.
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on 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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on 7 May 2014
This was probably the first anthology of Sherlock Holmes pastiches that I ever read back in the dim and murky past when dinosaurs walked the Earth in mortal terror of Doug McClure. Basil Rathbone was still my main source of Holmes with most of Conan Doyle senior's stories still not having a place on my bookshelves. So now that all those brilliant works by dear Arthur are all indelible features of my memory, perhaps it's time I revisited his son's attempts to recreate his father's style with the help of his dad's old desk and of collaborator John Dickson Carr. Only the first two are full on collaborations with perhaps one of them, The Seven Clocks, being the best story in the collection. It's got a suitably bizarre fellow in it who goes in for some full on random clock smashing but it's the spot on atmosphere that makes the tale. The other being the rather poor The Gold Hunter. Carr's The Wax Gamblers is like one of those old school friends you bump into every five years or so, turning up in various anthologies. It has a very humorous tone and features boxing, an injured Holmes and Watson getting the butt of the jokes but saving the day anyway. Good story. Unfortunately Carr steps over the line too much in the farcical Highgate Miracle. Carr has almost no involvement in the very forgettable Black Baronet but must surely have loaned Conan Doyle some expertise to craft The Sealed Room. Carr is regarded as one of the greatest to pen the sub-genre of the locked room and one of his stories was voted the all time best by his peers. Conan Doyle's father also penned a story of the same name. What results is also quite a good story and another that pops up from time to time.
From here on in Conan Doyle junior is left to his own devices as illness took a toll on Carr. What follows are six very derivative stories, mostly dull, with many of the right elements but no finished shine. The pick of them is The Debtford Horror, deeply derivative of The Speckled Band, but quite atmospheric with a nice frisson of creepiness to accompany one of the most creative methods of bumping off unwanted family members ever seen. Though thanks to Conan Doyle senior for sewing the seed by first mentioning in Black Peter the arrest of Wilson the notorious canary-trainer. Although Wilson is not arrested in the story Conan Doyle junior lays the blame at Watson's feet calling it 'a typical Watson error.' Holmes quite uncharacteristically spouts proverbs throughout. Fun though.
What always occurs to me after reading a Sherlock Holmes anthology, and the number is legion, is that no matter how closely the writers mimic Conan Doyle senior's style, or how many Holmesian elements are included, none of them come close to performing the alchemy that Arthur Conan Doyle did. In many ways the formula to the literary alchemy of the perfect Victorian Sherlock Holmes story is lost to time because no one has first hand experience of the Victorian era nor the acquaintance of the men the great detective was based upon.
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on 22 December 2015
A good story but extremely racist. It's interesting to note the dreadful attitude of the English in the 19th century towards foreigners and the poor. It makes for slightly uncomfortable reading at times but the setting of the story regarding the Andaman Islands makes it historically enlightening.
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on 20 February 2012
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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