THE SIGN OF FOUR is a more sensationalist novel than A STUDY IN SCARLET. Maybe that wasn’t always the case. Possibly in 1890, the whole notion of Mormonism was just as exotic as India and holy jewels. That each were mysteries in London which centred on far off places and different cultures. However, the Utah stuff in A STUDY IN SCARLET now means that that’s a book with a very western feel (quite literally). This however reads like the worst of colonialism. All fears of other peoples and the assertion that there are some non-British types out there who are literal monsters.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s only towards the end of the short stories – when Conan Doyle is in “I don’t care anymore, show me the money” mode – that I start finding his version of Sherlock Holmes difficult to read. This is for the most part a compulsive mystery/adventure story. But it is one that makes me feel a bit queasy for the amount of allowances I have to give it.
Stephen Fry gives another wonderful reading of it here. And the introduction has particularly marvelous detail that this was commissioned at the literary lunch that THE PORTRAIT OF DORIAN GRAY was commissioned. Arthur Conan Doyle and Oscar Wilde having lunch together! What’s more Rudyard Kipling was supposed to be there too, but couldn’t attend…
My debut novel, THE WANNABES – which has been out of print for a little while – is now available for free. A supernatural thriller of beautiful actresses and deadly ambition in London town, it’s well worth your time. You can get your copy here!