Sherlock Holmes is bored – there have been no cases to stimulate his great intellect since the successful resolution to that one with the big dog. When a mysterious murderous package arrives for the great detective, it seems that things have changed. Someone wants to exact a deadly revenge and will allow nothing to get in their way.
But there is something that will get in the way. A darkness has come to England, something that Holmes has never encountered before. Can even the Great Detective stand against the Prince of Darkness himself – Count Dracula.
After The Judgement of Sherlock Holmes, I thought I’d listen to another of the Big Finish Sherlock Holmes audios. All of the titles written by Jonathan Barnes have already been reviewed so I picked this one. It’s based on the novel Sherlock Holmes and the Tangled Skein by David Stuart Davies and adapted into an audio drama by Richard Dinnick.
It’s an odd mixture this one. No question at all, this is much more of a Sherlock Holmes story than a Dracula story. While this could fit into the Holmes canon (provided you accept the whole vampire thing), it stands as an alternate re-telling of the Dracula tale, as the Count comes to England without Jonathan Harker’s assistance. So we get a different Phantom Lady from Lucy Westenra but the basic beats of the story are the same, initially at least.
Fans of Dracula rather than Holmes may be disappointed though, as Holmes basically outwits him at every turn. After a near disastrous meeting with a vampire, Holmes, once he’s had a quick Vampire 101 from Van Helsing (who promptly clears off again, as his lecture tour is more important than dealing with the Prince of Darkness), never seems to be caught out by this alleged evil genius. It’s a demonstration of Holmes at the peak of his powers but doesn’t really do Dracula any favours.
Another person who doesn’t fair too well is Watson, who’s pretty close to his bumbling stereotype here. No fault to Richard Earl, playing Watson with his usual quality performance – the narration is particularly effective – but the plotting does him no favours. For example, once everything is resolved, it takes him a month to ask Holmes for some clarification on some point, needing the visit of Van Helsing to bring the matter up for no good reason. It does make you realise just how skilled Jonathan Barnes is at giving Watson real life in his dramas.
But it’s a highly entertaining tale with excellent performances all round – Nicholas Briggs’s Sherlock Holmes is in fine arrogant form in particular and the rest of the cast do an outstanding job – as a challenge to the listener, listen to it without looking at the cast list and then guess how many performers there are in the cast. You’ll be amazed. The fact that it’s also a sequel to a well-known Holmes tale gives it some extra oomph without it feeling tacked on, and it keeps moving forward. Not quite as strong as The Perfidious Mariner, The Ordeals or The Judgement of Sherlock Holmes (all of which simply must be listened to) but this is still well worth a couple of hours of your time. Highly Recommended.