BBC Radio: The Memoirs Of Sherlock Holmes - The Musgrave Ritual Review

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Andrew East continues his journey through the audio adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

The second of Sherlock Holmes’s cases, chronologically that is, is once again recounted in the Memoirs collection of stories. As such, Doctor Watson, again, is merely a sounding board for Holmes to recount another intricate mystery.

The Musgrave Ritual is far more satisfying as a mystery than The Gloria Scott. It features the mysterious disappearance of two servants from the household of Reginald Musgrave, an old university acquaintance of Holmes. It revolves around a ritualistic riddle which Holmes solves and leads them to find one of the servants dead in a tiny chamber, clutching a box which contains the State Crown of Charles I. The servant, Brunton, had deduced that the ritual would reveal valuables and had set out to recover them with the aid of Rachel Howells, a maid he had had a brief affair with. Unknown to him, Rachel bore him ill will over the end of their relationship and after helping him into the hidden chamber, shuts him in with no chance of escape and flees.

A much more straightforward mystery but the central performances of Clive Merrison’s Holmes and Musgrave, played by Robert Daws, are engaging and carry the listener well through the story. The script is a good adaptation but I found I was far more aware of ‘descriptive’ dialogue, particularly when Holmes was solving the riddle and carrying out the various steps to finding the hidden chamber. It’s not something I notice with Big Finish, for example, but here there seemed to be some slightly awkward lines where Holmes describes what he is doing. This is probably unavoidable in a dramatisation of a written work and is something I can ignore quite easily.

The rest of the cast perform well in relatively small roles (including Michael Williams, Watson); although of particular note is the Cybercontroller and Giant Robot himself, Michael Kilgariff, as local policeman, Sergeant Harris.

Historically, this story is relatively timeless. The hidden treasure is Charles I’s crown but (aside from having a household of servants) the solving of the riddle and the family history built up around the ritual could quite easily work in a more modern setting (maybe one for Moffatt and Gatiss to weave into Sherlock).

A primary school teacher and father of two, Andrew finds respite in the worlds of Doctor Who, Disney and general geekiness. Unhealthily obsessed with Lance Parkin’s A History, his Doctor Who viewing marathon is slowly following Earth history from the Dawn of Time to the End of the World. He would live in a Disney theme park if given half the chance.

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