The Sign of the Four (1890), is the second novel featuring Sherlock Holmes written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The story is set in 1888. The Sign of the 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 four convicts (the Four of the title) and two corrupt prison guards. It presents the detective's drug habit and humanizes him in a way that had not been done in A Study in Scarlet.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle described how he was commissioned to write the story over a dinner with Joseph M. Stoddart, managing editor of Lippincott's Monthly Magazine, at the Langham Hotel in London on 30 August 1889. Stoddart wanted to produce an English version of Lippincott’s with a British editor and British contributors. The dinner was also attended by Oscar Wilde, who eventually contributed The Picture of Dorian Gray to the July 1890 issue. Doyle discussed what he called this golden evening in his 1924 autobiography Memories and Adventures.
As with the first story, A Study in Scarlet, produced two years previously, The Sign of the Four was not particularly successful to start with. It was the short stories, published from 1891 onwards in Strand Magazine, that made household names of Sherlock Holmes and his creator.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930) was a Scottish physician and writer, most noted for his stories about the detective Sherlock Holmes, generally considered a milestone in the field of crime fiction, and for the adventures of Professor Challenger. He was a prolific writer whose other works include science fiction stories, plays, romances, poetry, non-fiction and historical novels.
Sherlock Holmes is a London-based consulting detective whose abilities border on the fantastic, Holmes is famous for his astute logical reasoning, his ability to adopt almost any disguise, and his use of forensic science skills to solve difficult cases.
Holmes, who first appeared in publication in 1887, was featured in four novels and 56 short stories.
Novels : A Study in Scarlet (1887), The Sign of the Four (1890), The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902) and The Valley of Fear (1915).
Short stories : The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1892), The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (1894), The Return of Sherlock Holmes (1905), His Last Bow (1917) and The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes (1927).