The Sign of Four Book Summary - The Sign of Four Book explained in key points

The Sign of Four summary

Arthur Conan Doyle

Brief summary

The Sign of Four is a thrilling detective novel by Arthur Conan Doyle. Join us as we unravel the mystery alongside Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, following their pursuit of a stolen treasure and solving a case filled with secrets, deceit, and danger.

Give Feedback
Table of Contents

    The Sign of Four
    Summary of key ideas

    A Mysterious Agreement and a Singular Case

    In Arthur Conan Doyle's The Sign of Four, we follow the experienced detective Sherlock Holmes and his loyal friend, Dr. John Watson, on a captivating adventure. The mystery begins when they are approached by a young lady, Mary Morstan, who has received a peculiar letter summoning her to a secret meeting. For every year over the past six years, she received a valuable pearl from an anonymous benefactor. Mary seeks Holmes’ assistance in unraveling this enigma, leading them to Thaddeus Sholto. Thaddeus reveals his father's agreement with Morstan's father to share a hidden treasure obtained during their military service in India.

    When they arrive at Sholto's estate to confront his brother, Bartholomew, who recently discovered the treasure, they instead find him murdered with an exotic poison dart – a clear fingerprint of the "sign of four". Holmes and Watson now face a twofold conundrum - discerning the origins of the mysterious pearls and hunting down the cold-blooded killer.

    The Pursuit of Justice and an Unexpected Ally

    Next, Holmes, aided by the clever dog Toby, follows a footprint trail to a hiding spot at the river. However, despite the evident clues, the police arrest Thaddeus for his brother’s murder, misled by his late-night visit to Bartholomew. Meanwhile, Holmes and Watson seek a secretive one-legged man and his accomplice, a native Andaman Islander - suspects in the murder. The adventure further unfolds as they embark on a thrilling boat chase on the Thames River.

    While their investigation intensifies, another plot thread develops as Watson finds himself falling in love with Miss Morstan, a relationship Holmes discourages due to its potential interference with the case. Despite this, Holmes begrudgingly acknowledges the helpfulness of Athelney Jones, a detective from Scotland Yard, who provides significant insights into their case.

    The Dark Past and the Unveiling of Truth

    Their relentless pursuit ends successfully when they capture the one-legged man, Jonathan Small, and his accomplice Tonga. Jonathan, an ex-convict, then narrates his haunting past in the Andaman Penal Colony and how his path crossed with the Sholtos and Morstan during his service in India. He also reveals his part in the treasure's theft and his subsequent quest for revenge on Major Sholto for his betrayal.

    Surprisingly, it transpires that Mary’s anonymous benefactor and Bartholomew's murderer were one and the same - the relentless Jonathan. Haunted by his guilt over Morstan's unwarranted death, he had been anonymously sending Mary the pearls.

    The Finale: Love, Loss and Lingering Mystery

    At the book’s conclusion, Holmes successfully restores some order. However, there's an unexpected twist, leaving everyone still grappling with the loss. The treasure, the source of all distress in Jonathan’s and Mary’s lives, disappears irretrievably into the depths of the river during the pursuit. In the aftermath, Watson proposes to Mary, who graciously accepts his offer. Holmes, however, retreats to his solitary life, indulging in his cocaine habit.

    All in all, The Sign of Four intricately weaves a tale of betrayal, revenge, love and justice, underscoring the corrupting impact of wealth while showcasing Holmes's astonishing sleuthing abilities. Although the treasure is lost, love thrives, and Holmes’s appetite for mystery endures, setting the stage for more extraordinary investigations in the subsequent Conan Doyle novels.

    Give Feedback
    How do we create content on this page?
    More knowledge in less time
    Read or listen
    Read or listen
    Get the key ideas from nonfiction bestsellers in minutes, not hours.
    Find your next read
    Find your next read
    Get book lists curated by experts and personalized recommendations.
    Shortcasts New
    We’ve teamed up with podcast creators to bring you key insights from podcasts.

    What is The Sign of Four about?

    The Sign of Four is a classic detective novel featuring the famous Sherlock Holmes. When a young woman seeks Holmes' help in solving the mysterious disappearance of her father and a valuable treasure, Holmes and his loyal friend Dr. Watson embark on a thrilling adventure filled with twists and turns. Set in Victorian London, this gripping tale is a must-read for mystery lovers.

    The Sign of Four Review

    The Sign of Four (1890) by Arthur Conan Doyle is a captivating mystery novel that takes readers on a thrilling adventure. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • With its intricate plot and clever twists, it keeps readers engaged until the very end, leaving them eager for more.
    • Through its engaging characters and vivid descriptions, the book brings Victorian London to life and immerses readers in a fascinating world.
    • Exploring themes of justice, love, and loyalty, the book offers compelling moral dilemmas that keep readers thinking long after they've finished reading.

    Who should read The Sign of Four?

    • Readers who enjoy thrilling mysteries and detective stories
    • People interested in the characters of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson
    • Individuals who appreciate classic literature and the Victorian era

    About the Author

    Arthur Conan Doyle was a British writer best known for creating the iconic detective character, Sherlock Holmes. Doyle's most famous works include the Sherlock Holmes series, which consists of four novels and 56 short stories. "The Sign of Four" is one of the novels in the series and is a thrilling mystery that showcases Holmes' brilliant deductive skills. Doyle's other notable works include "A Study in Scarlet," "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes," and "The Hound of the Baskervilles." His contributions to the mystery genre have solidified his place as one of the most influential and enduring authors in literary history.

    Categories with The Sign of Four

    People ❤️ Blinkist 
    Sven O.

    It's highly addictive to get core insights on personally relevant topics without repetition or triviality. Added to that the apps ability to suggest kindred interests opens up a foundation of knowledge.

    Thi Viet Quynh N.

    Great app. Good selection of book summaries you can read or listen to while commuting. Instead of scrolling through your social media news feed, this is a much better way to spend your spare time in my opinion.

    Jonathan A.

    Life changing. The concept of being able to grasp a book's main point in such a short time truly opens multiple opportunities to grow every area of your life at a faster rate.

    Renee D.

    Great app. Addicting. Perfect for wait times, morning coffee, evening before bed. Extremely well written, thorough, easy to use.

    4.7 Stars
    Average ratings on iOS and Google Play
    31 Million
    Downloads on all platforms
    10+ years
    Experience igniting personal growth
    Powerful ideas from top nonfiction

    Try Blinkist to get the key ideas from 7,000+ bestselling nonfiction titles and podcasts. Listen or read in just 15 minutes.

    Start your free trial

    The Sign of Four FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Sign of Four?

    The main message of The Sign of Four is...

    How long does it take to read The Sign of Four?

    The reading time for The Sign of Four varies...

    Is The Sign of Four a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Sign of Four is worth reading because...

    Who is the author of The Sign of Four?

    The author of The Sign of Four is Arthur Conan Doyle.

    What to read after The Sign of Four?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Sign of Four, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson
    • The Art Of Non-Conformity by Chris Guillebeau
    • A Whole New Mind by Daniel H. Pink
    • Theory U by C. Otto Scharmer
    • The Design of Everyday Things by Donald A. Norman
    • The Innovator ’s Dilemma# by Clayton M. Christensen
    • The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
    • Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull with Amy Wallace
    • Things a Little Bird Told Me by Biz Stone
    • Think Like a Freak by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner