The Sacrifice Of Sherlock Holmes by Jonathan Barnes (CD story review).

The final conflict is nigh with ‘The Sacrifice Of Sherlock Holmes’. The much awaited conclusion of the series by Big Finish and writer Jonathan Barnes is produced by Ken Bentley and stars Nicholas Briggs and Richard Earl as Holmes and Watson. The four-part epic looks at the destruction of London and the humiliation of our greatest detective. This is drama, baby, and it’s melodrama.


The first instalment, ‘The Prophet In The Rain’, commences as our aging friends are mourning a loss. They are once again confronted by a persistent adversary. The shocking result sets in train a series of events leading to death and destruction with the transmission of a deadly disease.

The second episode, ‘The Body In The Garrett’, sees London start to fall. The Society has shown it’s hand and the government is in disarray. Something terrifying and mysterious is leading our elderly detectives into great danger. The third Mrs. Watson (played by Elizabeth Rider) is subjected to a terrifying ordeal. How can they hope to prevail?

The Beast In The Darkness’ sees Holmes and Watson separated. Holmes is badly wounded and Watson captured and forced to endure strange visions. He is not only afraid for his life but also his wife, the third Mrs. Watson. Her behaviour causes a revelation.

The Shadow In The Water’ brings the events to stunning conclusion as the government contemplates the ultimate sanction. Meanwhile, Holmes and Watson must face a trial for their lives. Will truth or lie be the winner?

This is a great collaboration of writer, producer and cast input sets the standard for audio drama and the added extras of cast interviews and writerly insight make this a complete package. Having read, watched and heard a lot of Sherlock Holmes, this is one of my favourite incarnations. The plot not only has an action element but also allows our protagonists to make personal journeys that lead to new self-knowledge.

On first listen, it is the noisy plot that impresses but, second time around, I enjoyed the prose much more and the delivery by the different actors. There is a depth to this that allows, if you have the time, a more luxurious second listen. Within these words, we learn how the characters relate to each other, how veils may be lifted which leads to change and sometimes growth. There is the relationship between Holmes and Watson. There is the Venn diagram cross-over between Holmes, Watson and Mrs. Watson which leads to much delicious interaction. The third Mrs. Watson is a perfectly brilliant addition to the mix. She provides the impetus for Watson, the investment in the future and the determination of how he really feels about the supplanter of the saintly Mary and the ‘glamorous’ second wife. After all, she is far more independent and doesn’t lean on him in the way his previous amours did. Holmes also interacts with the new character Vivienne Scott (played by Natalie Burt, also known for Sally Armstrong in Big Finish’s ‘Doctor Who’). She’s is always Miss Scott to him. In fact, several partnerships are profiled here with the key villains also forming part of this. This dynamic movement between these partnerships and the clever dialogue carefully reveals aspects of character and motivation.

The heightened emotions of melodrama are very much part of this drama. As this is a little more 21st century than Conan Doyle might have come up with. At least, the plot does not have the women fainting and needing their stays loosening for which we are very grateful, finally some progress. They feel more integrated to the plot and get to chew their own scenery.

This is a good package and the added interviews give us the ‘director/writers commentary that the listeners so enjoy. Although this is ostensibly an end there are hints of more to come and there is still time for ‘The Perils Of Sherlock In A Bath Chair’ or maybe ‘Young Sherlock’ could now be added to the roster?

Sue Davies

October 2016

(pub: Big Finish. 4 CDs 240 minute story slipcase boxset. Price: CD: £30.00 (UK), ISBN: 978-1-78178-948-3. Download: Price: £25.00 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-78178-949-0)

cast: Nicholas Briggs, Richard Earl, Elizabeth Rider and Natalie Burt

check out website: www.bigfinish.com

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