Sherlock as you’ve never heard him before! ‘The Ordeals Of Sherlock Holmes’ might be called ‘The Four Ages Of Sherlock’, as we encounter him as a young man through his life as a gentleman investigator and into his old age and retirement. A worthy project this four-parter by Jonathan Barnes (hear also the marvellous ‘The Adventures Of The Perfidious Mariner’) takes Sherlock on an incredible journey. Not to forget also that John Watson is also along for this ride and has an important role to play.
Over the course of four stories, we are invited to witness the progress of Sherlock Holmes through his long life as a consulting detective towards bitterness and defeat. Each of the four stories forms part of a puzzle that leads to the conclusion at the end of the four and, towards the end of Holmes’ life, when he has retired from the detective game to keep his bees.
In part one, Holmes introduces himself to Inspector Le Strade as he bullishly shows off his detecting skills and amazes the ‘peeler’ with his observational skills. A body has been pulled from the Thames and Holmes is keen to practise his abilities and get to the truth. But perhaps his overconfidence that will dog him all his life starts the series of events we witness unfold.
Meanwhile, John Watson is far away serving in the army as a doctor in Afghanistan. He is subjected to kidnap by unknown tribesmen and encounters an Englishman, also setting in train events that will repercuss through the years.
In part two, the case of a missing girl is made more intriguing because she is not missing. Holmes and Watson travel to see what has caused the terrible change in a beloved daughter and encounter something far stranger than they could have imagined.
Part three is particularly gruesome as we approach the downfall of Holmes and a reason for his retirement. It may be more Barnes than Doyle but this is a clever plot that is only truly revealed in the fourth episode which finally draws the elements together and we learn at least part of the truth. I’m thinking there is yet more to come on this.
I really enjoyed this four part exploration of ‘The Ordeals Of Sherlock Holmes’. The plot is intriguing and fans of Jonathan Barnes should get their teeth into this. It also explores the life of Sherlock and how even such an amazing person can harbour doubts and despair. Not forgetting the wonderful character of our original narrator of ‘Murder He Wrote’, the exceptional Dr. John Watson. I dare you not to shed a tear at the opening of the fourth and final chapter.
Once again the dynamic duo of Nicholas Briggs and Richard Earl are ably complemented by the twin terrors of director Ken Bentley and writer Jonathan Barnes. I can’t wait for more from this fantastic four. More please, write faster, damn you!
(pub: Big Finish. 4 CDs 240 minute story. Price: CD: £30.00 (UK), Download: £25.00 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-78178-155-5)
cast: Nicholas Briggs, Richard Earl, John Banks, Derek Carlyle, Blake Ritson, Michael Cochrane, Eve Karpf, Amy Ewbank, Ken Bones, Caroline Keiff, Tracey Childs, Marek Oravec and Andrew Fettes
check out website: www.bigfinish.com