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The Sign of Four (Penguin Classics) [Paperback]

By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle & Peter Ackroyd (Introduction by)
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Item Specifications...

Pages   128
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.5" Width: 5.25" Height: 8"
Weight:   0.25 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Oct 1, 2001
Publisher   Penguin Group USA
Age  18
ISBN  0140439072  
EAN  9780140439076  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
Having received cryptic messages and valuable pearls after her father's sudden disappearance, a young woman asks Sherlock Holmes to solve the mystery.

Publishers Description
Yellow fog is swirling through the streets of London, and Sherlock Holmes himself is sitting in a cocaine-induced haze until the arrival of a distressed and beautiful young lady forces the great detective into action. Each year following the strange disappearance of her father, Miss Morstan has received a present of a rare and lustrous pearl. Now, on the day she is summoned to meet her anonymous benefactor, she consults Holmes and Watson.

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More About Sir Arthur Conan Doyle & Peter Ackroyd

Arthur Conan Doyle Arthur Conan Doyle was born the third of ten siblings on 22 May 1859 in Edinburgh, Scotland. His father, Charles Altamont Doyle, was born in England of Irish descent, and his mother, born Mary Foley, was Irish. They were married in 1855.

Although he is now referred to as "Conan Doyle", the origin of this compound surname (if that is how he meant it to be understood) is uncertain. His baptism record in the registry of St Mary's Cathedral in Edinburgh gives 'Arthur Ignatius Conan' as his Christian name, and simply 'Doyle' as his surname. It also names Michael Conan as his godfather.

At the age of nine Conan Doyle was sent to the Roman Catholic Jesuit preparatory school, Hodder Place, Stonyhurst. He then went on to Stonyhurst College, leaving in 1875.

From 1876 to 1881 he studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh. This required that he provide periodic medical assistance in the towns of Aston (now a district of Birmingham) and Sheffield. While studying, Conan Doyle began writing short stories. His first published story appeared in "Chambers's Edinburgh Journal" before he was 20. Following his graduation, he was employed as a ship's doctor on the SS Mayumba during a voyage to the West African coast. He completed his doctorate on the subject of tabes dorsalis in 1885.

In 1885 Conan Doyle married Louisa (or Louise) Hawkins, known as "Touie". She suffered from tuberculosis and died on 4 July 1906. The following year he married Jean Elizabeth Leckie, whom he had first met and fallen in love with in 1897. Due to his sense of loyalty he had maintained a purely platonic relationship with Jean while his first wife was alive. Jean died in London on 27 June 1940.

Conan Doyle fathered five children. Two with his first wife—Mary Louise (28 January 1889 – 12 June 1976), and Arthur Alleyne Kingsley, known as Kingsley (15 November 1892 – 28 October 1918). With his second wife he had three children—Denis Percy Stewart (17 March 1909 – 9 March 1955), second husband in 1936 of Georgian Princess Nina Mdivani (circa 1910 – 19 February 1987; former sister-in-law of Barbara Hutton); Adrian Malcolm (19 November 1910–3 June 1970) and Jean Lena Annette (21 December 1912–18 November 1997).

Conan Doyle was found clutching his chest in the hall of Windlesham, his house in Crowborough, East Sussex, on 7 July 1930. He had died of a heart attack at age 71. His last words were directed toward his wife: "You are wonderful." The epitaph on his gravestone in the churchyard at Minstead in the New Forest, Hampshire, reads:


Conan Doyle's house, Undershaw, located in Hindhead, south of London, where he had lived for a decade, had been a hotel and restaurant between 1924 and 2004. It now stands empty while conservationists and Conan Doyle fans fight to preserve it.

A statue honours Conan Doyle at Crowborough Cross in Crowborough, where Conan Doyle lived for 23 years. There is also a statue of Sherlock Holmes in Picardy Place, Edinburgh, close to the house where Conan Doyle was born.

Arthur Conan Doyle lived in Edinburgh. Arthur Conan Doyle was born in 1859 and died in 1930.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Lust for Money Leads to Murders  Jan 6, 2010
The Sign of Four, by A. Conan Doyle

This story begins with Dr. Watson advising Sherlock Holmes against dabbling with drugs because of the long-term dangers. Holmes observes a watch and deduces the habits of the previous owner. Miss Mary Morstan visits with her problem. Her father disappeared ten years earlier. For the last six years she received a large pearl in the mail. Now she received a letter telling her she was wronged and asking for a meeting. Holmes and Watson will accompany her. Their carriage arrives at a house in a new terrace. They meet Thaddeus Sholto, one of the sons of Major Sholto, the best friend of Mary Morstan's father Captain Sholto. Thaddeus tells why what he knows about the story. His brother Bartholomew discovered the hidden treasure. When they arrive they find Bartholomew murdered in a locked room and the treasure missing! The police are called. They arrest Thaddeus and the servants as accomplices.

Sherlock Holmes borrowed a dog to follow the scent of the small man who stepped in creosote. They follow the scent to the water's edge; they look around and find information. Holmes sends the Baker Street Irregulars to search for the missing steam launch. Holmes himself locates the `Aurora', and the police launch later chases it downstream in a wild chase. Holmes and Watson shoot the Andaman islander, then Jonathan Small is captured with the treasure chest. Watson gained a treasure (Chapter 11). Small tells about the Agra treasure from the time of the India Mutiny, and has the last laugh (Chapter 12).

The story about the Agra fort and the mutiny shows the attitudes of the English public. The English conquered India for its loot, just as in other wars. But the Four decided to enrich themselves and follow the example set by the royal rulers, English or Indian. A double-dealing rajah straddled the conflict and split his assets; it failed because of others who took advantage of their position. But their plan failed because of an unforeseen watcher. The Four who killed for riches were swindled out of their fortune by a clever liar who took advantage of his position. Was Doyle mocking the English system of purchased offices in his story of Sholto and Morstan?
Doyle's Holmes is Better in His Short Stories  Dec 20, 2009
Synopsis: The Sign of the Four starts with a short intro involving Holmes and Watson sitting around the Baker Street apartment. The story quickly develops into a "closed room" mystery--there is a dead man in a closed locked room. Unfortunately, Holmes quickly solves the mystery and the remainder of the book is spent catching the culprits. Then, when one of the murderers is caught, the narrative Watson is telling breaks off and the captured man tells a tale of pirates, stolen treasure, and horrific cannibals. Oh, and a love story for Watson is thrown in.

Review: This Holmes tale is extremely inconsistent. This is one of Doyle's earlier works. It seemed to me that he was successful with the short stories and then struggled when he tried to extend the formula into novel form. A Study in Scarlet, the first Holmes' book is set up in a similar way. Watson is narrating, then another person interrupts and the reader is told of a strange, far away place. In Scarlet, the alternate setting is Utah, with tales of the Danites and an appearance by Brigham Young.

In this book, the tales of treasure and cannibals are more ridiculous than interesting. These plot devices may have been used because Doyle's predilections for the strange and occult, or due to a desire to titillate the reader. In either case, they may have worked originally, but they don't translate well for today's modern reader. In all, I found the book extremely boring.

Skip this one and buy one of the short story collections such as The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes or The Return of Sherlock Holmes instead.

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Mysterious  Nov 16, 2009
In 1890, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle published "The Sign of Four", his second work featuring the famous detective Sherlock Holmes and his trusted associate, Dr. Watson. The tale begins with a bored Holmes wallowing in cocaine before a young woman named Mary Morstan turns up at 221B Baker Street with an irresistible mystery. Her father mysteriously disappeared several years earlier, but for the last six years she has received a pearl from an anonymous source. However, that gift comes into question when she receives a summons to find out what happened to her father.

Morstan engages in the help of Holmes and Watson, and the three meet Thaddeus Sholto, a man who is taking great pains to keep secret his dealings with Captain Morstan. As the group reaches the house of Thaddeus's twin brother Bartholomew, they come upon a terrible scene: Bartholomew is dead, and a mysterious treasure is missing. Scotland Yard is quick to make arrests, but Sherlock Holmes is convinced that they are wrong.

What follows is an extraordinary tale involving the British Empire in India, an extremely short cannibal, a treasure box full of precious stones, double-dealing, a man with a wooden leg, and a steam ship that has seemingly disappeared into thin air. Will Holmes find his man in time? How do all of the events relate to Miss Morstan's father? And where exactly is this treasure everyone is preoccupied with?

In "The Sign of Four", Doyle once again creates a mystery that is worthy of the great Sherlock Holmes. More interesting than his earlier Holmes novel "A Study in Scarlet", this one is truly captivating.
A Stunning Holmes Caper  Sep 3, 2009
I have not long completed "A Study In Scarlet" which was Doyle's first jump into the world of Sherlock Holmes, and it was a jump I thoroughly enjoyed. Now, after just finishing "The Sign Of Four", I am now set in my convictions to make sure I read every single Holmes adventure written by Doyle. This is a longer and, indeed, more complex case than "A Study In Scarlet" yet the writing style takes a slightly different approach as it remains focused on the investigation of Holmes & Watson rather than split into two the story to try and explain the motive behind the investigated crime.

The skills of Holmes this time are called upon by a young woman of the name of Mary Morstan who tells Holmes of her father's disappearance four years ago and then a mysterious appearance of yearly gifts which started to arrive four years ago. This leads them unexpectedly to the scene of shocking murder which reaches to the depths of far off India and the investigation is engaged upon with the help of a stereotypical detective, a gang of street Arabs and the keen nose of a canine.

There are some fantastic aspects to this piece of Holmes fiction compared to his first outing. Still told from the perspective of Watson it touches upon the most interesting aspect of Holmes' personality that being his inherent drug use. This seemingly large flaw in what appears to be a man with an almost perfect skill is something that makes the character all the more human. It also gives a brief look towards the end of the story as to Holmes' perspective on emotional affairs such as love which he sees as opposite to truth and reason.

This is another fantastic Holmes investigation and just makes me anticipate the further stories that I will delve into. For those not familiar with the Holmes stories, I strongly recommend that you begin your quest with the fantastic "A Study In Scarlet" and then move swiftly onto this as it is truly a gem of class English literature.
Thrilling again.  May 27, 2009
The Sign of Four is the second book, after A Study in Scarlet, featuring Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick Dr. John Watson. There are new changes that would set the tone for many later adventures. One interesting change occurs to Dr. Watson, as we learned in the first book, is that the war wound has been relocated from the shoulder to the leg. I know Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a brilliant writer, but I find this oddity perplexing. At the end of the story, Dr. Watson undergoes a life-changing event which I had, like his friend Sherlock Holmes, hoped that wouldn't occur. The tale of The Sign of Four is as thrilling as the one of A Study in Scarlet, and this time, the author makes improvements in how he presented the story. I complained of the first book being less thorough for an experience of being there for the reader due to the lack of sleuthing details, but in The Sign of Four, the author almost makes it entirely possible for the reader to actually think what the best course of action would be and which suggestion is the best possible before application. In other words, The Sign of Four is a real thinking man's mystery adventure. Again, there is a ton of wisdom contained within the lines that are quite useful for anyone. I found two quotes in the story that struck me the best parts of the book. One is Sherlock's instance of disallowing emotion to be factored in the equation by stating, "I never make exceptions. An exception disproves the rule." Another is quite true when Sherlock offers a political advice, "The main thing with people of that sort is never to let them think that their information can be of the slightest importance to you." In both tales, the motives are quite similar in the manner of Edmond Dantes, but in A Study in Scarlet was vengeance for a loved one while in The Sign of Four for a robbed treasure after an act of betrayal. When the chase is on in Chapter 10 of The Sign of Four, that's when the excitement sets in à la Patriot Games with Harrison Ford and Sean Bean. As Jonathan Small relates his tale of misfortune, I was left off the track when he failed to mention the fate of the other three men after the realization of the betrayal and also the life-saving of Tonga. The most disappointing moment, as it occurs in the beginning and also in the end of The Sign of Four, is Sherlock Holmes' cocaine addiction. I understand that this shooting up business of Sherlock happened in the latter part of the nineteenth century when its dangers weren't well-known. I am positive that it would be a very despondent moment when a kid says, "But Sherlock Holmes did it." as an excuse. All in all, The Sign of Four is another thrilling tale of the Sherlock Holmes stories and promises more of the same in other works.

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