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Sherlock Holmes: The Sign of the Four (ebook)

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The Sign of the Four (1890) (also called The Sign of Four; see "Publishing history", below) was the second novel featuring Sherlock Holmes written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Doyle wrote four novels and 56 stories starring the fictional detective.

The story is set in 1887 or 1888. The Sign of Four has a complex plot involving service in East India Company India, the Indian Rebellion of 1857, a stolen treasure and a secret pact among a guard and three convicts. It presents the detective's drug habit and humanizes him in a way that had not been done in the first novel, A Study in Scarlet. It also introduces Doctor Watson's future wife, Mary Morstan.

Several basic elements are similar to those in A Study in Scarlet. Both books are divided into clearly defined parts. There is "the present" in Victorian London where the detective is trying to untangle a murder mystery emanating from a far-off country (the Western United States and the Mormons in the one case, India and the 1857 Mutiny in the other). Moreover, there is a lengthy flashback, taking up a considerable part of the book, telling from the killer's point of view the events which would eventually lead him to come to London and there commit the acts which would bring him to Holmes' attention. In both books, the account is written with some sympathy for the character, giving a degree of moral — even if not judicial — justification to acts committed to avenge a severe case of injustice (a theme already popularized, at the time of writing, in Dumas's The Count of Monte Cristo).