Another purchase from Big Finish day. The Adventure of the Perfidious Mariner by Jonathan Barnes, directed by Nicholas Briggs and Martin Montague.
Sherlock Holmes has retired and lives a reclusive life keeping Bees in a cottage on the South Downs. When Dr Watson pays him an unexpected visit he is followed by a man who is haunted by the sinking of the Titanic, and by a ghastly woman in white who brings death whenever she appears.
This is a cracking story. It fits neatly into one of the gaps in the Holmes canon and creates an interesting back story about a terrible mistake which has forced his retirement and driven him away from London, and from his friend Watson. In truth the murder mystery almost plays second fiddle to the powerful themes of loss, grief and a broken friendship. Of course there has to be some Holmesian magical deduction and there is plenty of it, and not all of it is explained. We just have to accept that Sherlock Holmes, a bit like the Doctor, can do certain things which are beyond the ordinary man.
The best Holmes stories start with an apparently supernatural scenario which allows the great detective to unravel the mystery and find the rational solution to the impossible puzzle. And the mysterious woman in white who leaves a trail of sea water and death is a perfect set-up, and gives us a nicely gruesome image for a radio play.
The cast are all excellent. Nicholas Briggs and Richard Earl as Homes and Watson, are spectacular. Briggs conveys Holmes' retreat into seclusion after the mistake which appears to have ruined his life. He believes his special abilities are starting to desert him and he is no longer as sure and arrogant as he once seemed. Meanwhile Richard Earl gives us a Dr Watson who is grief stricken after the death of his wife, and by the loss of his friendship with Holmes. They are both just perfect in the roles. The rest of the cast is pretty good too, Michael Maloney has a great voice and two of my Big Finish favourites, Tracey Childs and Toby Longworth round out a splendid ensemble piece.
I could quibble slightly with the medical details of the murderer's methods and the way Holmes cracks the case, but they are almost incidental features in this powerful story about loss, guilt and grief. It's a fantastic addition to the Sherlock Holmes legend and I'm going to have to get more from this Big Finish range. I enjoyed it so much that it's impossible to give it any less than 5 out of 5 ghastly apparitions. Highly recommended.