The Sign of Four


Basic information

Abbreviation: SIGN (J. F. Christ, 1947)
Word length: 43,372 (C. E. Lauterbach, 1960)
First published: Lippincott's Magazine, February 1890. First book edition: Spencer Blackett, 1890. First American edition: P. F. Collier, 1891 (a piracy).
About the title: The original manuscript uses "The Sign of the Four," but that's not Arthur Conan Doyle's writing, so who knows how authoritative it is. Lippincott's magazine followed that reading, but the early book editions went with The Sign of the Four. Modern editions vary: Doubleday uses the four-word title, Oxford the five-word title.

Redmond's Questions

First half: "Our quest does not appear to take us to very fashionable regions," says Sherlock Holmes. This tale is -- unlike many others in the Canon -- essentially about the middle class and the suburbs, rather than the older parts of London with which Sherlock Holmes is usually associated. What attitudes does it take?

Second half: "It is a romance!" cried Mrs. Forrester. "An injured lady, half a million in treasure, a black cannibal, and a wooden-legged ruffian." Is The Sign of the Four so well-loved by readers of Sherlock Holmes because of these exotic elements, or in spite of them?