11 November 2011

The Sign of the Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

My journey into the canon of Sherlock Holmes continued with The Sign of the Four, the second Holmes novel.  I was immediately struck by the opening scene, in which Sherlock Holmes is doing intravenous cocaine because he is bored.  It was a rather stark reminder of the attitudes, both social and medical, of that time period.
Equally striking (and darkly amusing) was the overt racism displayed throughout as well.  I suppose this was present in the prior novel, as well, but it was especially evident in The Sign of the Four, which dealt so particularly with India.  Indeed, one of the Indian revolts is depicted in the novel and is the origin of the entire plot, as misbegotten treasure acquired during the revolt leads to a series of betrayals and murders.  Throughout, characters use epithets and descriptions that are hilariously racist, and yet they do so without batting an eye.  It makes me wonder what sorts of things we do today that will one day be viewed as bigoted.
On the whole, I thought the mystery behind The Sign of the Four was slightly less compelling than the one in A Study in Scarlet; somehow, it felt almost predictable, in a way that Scarlet wasn’t.  Stolen treasure, escaping prison, a crazed caricature of Pacific Island aboriginal, all these things seemed almost inevitable, whereas A Study in Scarlet’s tale was perhaps more sympathetic and more unique.  “The cab-driver did it!” is somehow more exciting than “The wooden-legged escaped convict did it!”
Still, Sign was terrific.  I’m moving on to other things for a while but anxiously look forward to returning to Holmes in the near future.


Books: Reading The Call of Cthulhu right now.

Bottles: Had a fairly good bottle of Bordeaux at a restaurant recently and will post notes on it sooner or later...

Writing: Diving in to Chapter 14.

Guitar: Not really...the guitar is in another city.