I was rather harsh and perhaps a little critical of the Christmas release of the other half of this full release in the Sherlock Holmes, Big Finish range. I for one laughed when in the interview sections I heard Nick Briggs mention that this was a very self indulgent on his part, playing Sherlock Holmes. However, there is one important thing about this statement in respect of both Nick and of the characterisation and dramatisation of the great fictional figure Sherlock Holmes only work if the actor can make the part his own, and put his spin on it. Now to put that in to context, Basil Rathbone, for me is the benchmark, and the only other two that I can recall and immediately identify with Jeremy Brett and good old Tom Baker, in a one off BBC special where if you ever get chance watch it, as it rather a superb rendition, it is of course Tom Baker playing Sherlock Holmes but it is simply really very very good. However Nick Briggs has certainly made the audio Holmes his own, he is without question both a stalwart, and resolute, his performance is without equal in this format, and it makes for the listener a wonderful and fulfilling performance, that, for me gives Sherlock the fullness, the always dangling on the thread, will he fall and break again in his drug miss-use, or will he become the over analytical genius that we are all drawn and think of in awe and wonderment. The main element of this story without giving anything away, is that in this we see a middle aged Holmes, struggle with his own fragile loneliness, upon seeing what his friend and colleague Watson, get on with his life, forming new relationships that could mean for Holmes that he is on his own once more.
This Johnathan Barnes script is wonderful, full, and has a journey for both lead characters. We have all those incredibly clever puzzle solving elements, the inevitable mesmerizing Holmes twists of logic, played out against a story that for me as elements of the original Sign of Four, that is of course meant with the intent of a compliment. What is for me stands out, is that the story being four hours or more, has plenty of time to percolate and form, so we are given a rather complete and substantial adventure, with the very highest ranks of British society being shown as no better than those of the lowest ranks, being exploited by a man whom in the absence of Professor Moriarty is just as evil and twisted an opponent of Sherlock, could ever wish for. A man for whom class is more important, and will stop at nothing to establish himself within the highest ranks, by doing the most unspeakable things to others. I especially liked the interplay of Sherlock and his brother Mycroft, who here is played by Tim Bentinck. This release has certainly for me left me thinking, when will we get another, the story complexity and the acting seems to just get better and better each time.