The Sign of Four

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Gripping and ingeniously plotted, this Sherlock Holmes novel is also an important document of late-Victorian imperialism. Arthur Conan Doyle's second Sherlock Holmes novel is both a detective story and an imperial romance. Ostensibly the story of Mary Morstan, a beautiful young woman enlisting the help of Holmes to find her vanished father and solve the mystery of her receipt of a perfect pearl on the same date each year, it gradually uncovers a tale of treachery and human greed. The action audaciously ranges from penal settlements on the Andaman Islands to the suburban comfort of South London, and from the opium-fuelled violence of Agra Fort during the Indian 'Mutiny' to the cocaine-induced contemplation of Holmes' own Baker Street. This edition places Doyle's tale in the cultural, political, and social contexts of late nineteenth-century colonialism and imperialism. The appendices provide a wealth of relevant extracts from hard-to-find sources, ranging from official reports to memoirs, and newspaper editorials to anthropological studies.