by Jamie Downes
Author – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Genre – Crime, Mystery
Published – 1890
Length – 118 Pages (Kindle Edition)
In my experience, no matter the medium, tales involving Sherlock Holmes can almost uniformly be described as having a hugely promising beginning that declines horribly into nonsensical tedium ad infinitum. I theorised that the original works by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle must be immune to this formula. I believed they would offer engaging tales, full of twists, turns and ingenious feats of deduction. If his second Sherlock novel, The Sign of the Four, is anything to go by, my assumptions were spectacularly wrong. The great detective has supposedly built his reputation by obtusely solving complex mysteries no other could fathom, not following the most laborious breadcrumb trail since a trek across several miles-worth of inanity led directly to the door of Dr Watson. It’s as if Conan Doyle decided his audience could only handle so much intrigue, and thus a sterile second half of the novel was a necessity to protect their fragile little hearts. An unspectacular reveal is followed by a long and insistently boring monologue from the villain of the piece explaining in great detail how he arrived in his current predicament. Frankly, my attention was elsewhere, partly trying to keep myself from falling asleep, but mostly wondering why Sherlock Holmes ever became the widely celebrated character that he remains to this day.
The Sign of the Four is available as a free Kindle download from Amazon UK, here.