Book Review: The Sign of Four (Sherlock Holmes #2) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

After having very much enjoyed listening to A Study in Scarlet on audio last year, I was looking forward to continuing Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic Sherlock Holmes adventures. I was a bit taken aback when the book opens with a rather alarming scene of Holmes shooting up cocaine. Watson protests the practice, but it’s odd to learn Sherlock Holmes was a junkie.

This audio book didn’t grip me the way the first book did. Stephen Fry did a wonderful job at the narration, but I found the romance developing between Dr. Watson and Mary Morstan to be tiresome, and the solving of the subsequent murder mystery was tainted for me personally by racist passages describing Indians and one particular man from the Andaman Islands. I recognize this is a reflection of the era Doyle lived and was writing in, but nowadays, comparing brown or black people to animals and monkeys is dehumanizing and disturbingly racist.

I do plan on continuing the series, however, to give it a chance to redeem itself. A Study in Scarlet, along with the shorter stories I remember reading in grade school, were enjoyable enough that I’m willing to give Holmes another shot.

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