Sherlock Holmes: Holmes And The Ripper. Audio Drama, Big Finish.

Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating * * * *

Cast: Nicholas Briggs, Richard Earl, India Fisher, Sheryl Gannaway, Lex Shrapnel, Samuel Clemens, Matt Addis, Ian Brooker, Beth Chalmers, David Peart, John Banks,

The now familiar sound of a mournful violin playing draws in the listener to the story Holmes and The Ripper, what keeps them there is the unvarnished excellence that audio drama company Big Finish and writer Brian Clemens bring to one of the darkest periods of East End London and how they imagine Sherlock Holmes, portrayed by one of the main men at Big Finish in Nicholas Briggs, would have been coaxed into solving the murder.

Although following the same route of enquiry as the 1979 film Murder by Decree starring Christopher Plummer and James Mason as Holmes and Watson, the audio drama makes more of what is available to them and the masonic/royal conspiracy first proposed and propagated by Stephen Knight. What can annoy many Ripperologists, both amateur and professional is the lack of personal detail thrown into a television or film recreation in which the director feels he has to impart what little he knows about the actual horror that surrounded Whitechapel 125 years ago. In a lot of cases the flights of fancy taken might be vaguely entertaining to cinema goers but never shed any real thought onto a case that has remained unsolved, despite so many saying on the covers of their books the immortal words case closed. The reason is for the most part they don’t ask the real question, of why?

Big Finish and Brian Clemens have gone a long way to showing how to tackle the problem and at the same time and like the film Murder By Decree have showed how a more forensic approach, a man with an analytical brain would have solved the grisly murders, even if by the end of the drama the detective would have had to keep what he knew, all that he found out to himself and out of the prying but well-meaning questions by his old friend Doctor Watson.

The sound of a violin, the scream of a young woman about to meet her doom and the background sounds of East End London introduce the listener to the world of Sherlock Holmes, the fraternity of the masons and spiritualism in the appearance of Katherine Mead, played by the delight that is India Fisher. Ms. Fisher’s grounding at Big Finish is legendary and whilst all the fans lament the passing of time since she was on a Doctor Who audio as one of the finest companions Charlie Pollard;, in Katherine Mead, the popular actor gets to grips with playing a different type of companion, one who maybe in the background more but who certainly is just as beguiling as Irene Adler could ever be.

Brian Clemens story is a fascinating one, one that pulls at the many strands and false leads facing anyone looking into the historical serial killing by one of the East End’s most vicious murderers. The writer, unlike some over the years, has done his homework and created a piece of fiction shrouded in what many could see suggested as fact. The strands pull in different directions depending on who is leading who and in the end the result is an audio drama that wraps itself in the cloak of mystery and intrigue. This is one audio drama that cannot be left for a few days between parts one and two, it demands to be listened to in one sitting and revelled in.

Sherlock Holmes: Holmes and the Ripper can be purchased from Worlds Apart on Lime Street, Liverpool.

Ian D. Hall