Synopsis: Sherlock Holmes had many secrets. This is the greatest of them.
Our knowledge of the life and career of Mr Sherlock Holmes is necessarily partial and inexact. Riddled with lacunae and ambiguities, its parameters are defined chiefly by what his friend and colleague, Dr John Watson, saw fit to record. One era in particular – those enigmatic years in which, believed dead at the Reichenbach Falls, the Great Detective roved the world incognito – has been shrouded in obscurity and doubt, the particulars of that time too terrible and too strange to be set down in full.
At least, that is, until now…
Part One: Poppyland
It is October, 1921. Dr John Watson, now almost seventy, has accustomed himself to a life of retirement. He is surprised, then, to encounter his old friend, Mr Sherlock Holmes, rising out of the early evening mist like a wraith. There are things they have to discuss, he says, matters from the distant past. It is important, he says, that Watson hears at last a full account of what happened to Holmes during his years away from England when, believed by the world to be dead following his battle with Professor Moriarty, he travelled incognito overseas…
Part Two: At the Gates of Shambhala
1892. At the heart of Tibet, a world away from London, where a grieving Dr Watson is battling demons of his own, stands an ancient monastery, abandoned for generations but now the source of rumours of the most peculiar and terrible kind. For strangers have lately invaded this place and pressed it into service for their dark schemes. Those who dwell nearby have come to live in fear and sorrow. What good fortune, then, that a certain noted Norwegian explorer should happen to have found himself in the vicinity…
Part Three: The Man in the Moonlight
Mr Sherlock Holmes is the kind of man whom it is practically impossible to imagine ever having been a child, so fixed and set is his nature. Yet even he was once an infant, his childhood as fraught with peril as his adult life. That time, long past, still haunts him – one element most of all, the figure of a stranger, standing without and gazing upwards, his thin, pale face haloed by moonlight.
Part Four: The Tragedy of Pargetter Square
Here is where it ends: with a murderer in Pargetter Square, with the detective and a tyrant come face to face in Baker Street, with desperate ambition and wickedness incarnate, with an assassin’s bullet and with old friends working, unknowingly, as one.
Yet what is an ending if not a beginning by a different name?
Review: As with his previous effort The Ordeals of Sherlock Holmes, writer Jonathan Barnes constructed four interlinked stories that were dependent upon narrative economy. As much as I enjoy narrative economy as a storytelling device, I hope Barnes employs different structural elements in the next box set for variety’s sake. That said, The Judgement of Sherlock Holmes was just as excellent, if just as tragically dark, as its predecessor. The plot, as plots tend to be, was bog standard: a megalomaniacal cabal sought to remake the world and crossed paths with our heroes on multiple continents. Fortunately, I don’t enjoy stories for plot, as that’s rather like enjoying a fashion show for the coat hangers. The coat hangers may be necessary, but off the catwalk, not on.
I sat back and relished the monologuing of several villains. I also appreciated the use of dramatic irony as “The Society” threatened Watson and Mary, because they assumed Watson knew Holmes was alive. What I really liked, however, was the glimpse into Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes’ childhood and the fleshing out of their father, Sherrinford. Barnes named him that, because Sherrinford was the name with which Conan Doyle originally planned to christen his detective.
- As ever, the performances were superb and while the individual puzzle pieces weren’t new, the completed sound picture told an engaging yarn. You can purchase The Judgement of Sherlock Holmes at http://www.bigfinish.com/releases/v/the-judgement-of-sherlock-holmes-box-set-1116
Written By: Jonathan Barnes
Directed By: Ken Bentley
Nicholas Briggs (Sherlock Holmes/ Sherrinford Holmes), Richard Earl (Dr Watson), John Banks (Inspector Lestrade, Colonel Sebastian Moran), Tim Bentinck (Mycroft Holmes), Gemma Whelan (Mary Watson), Jemma Churchill (Helena Eidelmann), Terrence Hardiman (Dr Esau Thorne), Nicholas Chambers (The Reverend Samuel Griffiths), Joannah Tincey (Miss Jessica Hendrick), Dai Tabuchi (Dorje), David Killick (Lord Colney, The Earl of Pettigree)
- Story, Acting
- Structure a bit repetetive
- Audio Production10