Andrew East continues his journey through the audio adventures of Sherlock Holmes.
The Yellow Face is another corker of a mystery for Mr Sherlock Holmes. A young husband comes to Holmes because his wife is acting strangely and clearly keeping a secret from him. A nearby cottage to their house has recently been inhabited and the husband has started to see an unsettling yellow face staring from the window. His wife sneaks out of the house late one night and when the husband confronts her, she begs him not to interfere or ask more questions.
Unsurprisingly, though, he cannot resist, particularly when she continues to visit the cottage and, after calling in Holmes and Watson, the husband eventually goes into the house to discover the truth.
And it’s a good truth too. I’ve avoided spoiling to many details of some of the Holmes’ mysteries I’ve reviewed simply because that is, obviously, the point of the stories. But for this story, to properly comment on its central concepts, I have to reveal what the eponymous yellow face was.
The face is, in fact, a mask worn by a small child. The child is the wife’s from a previous marriage. However, that marriage was to a black man and the child is also black (oddly, she is specifically described as being as black as her father, rather than being mixed race). This, in a Victorian society, is a matter of great shame for the wife and something she is terrified her new husband will discover. Not wanting to abandon the child she has brought her to the cottage with a nurse and clearly hopes to somehow remain her mother whilst maintaining her respectability.
Her husband, on this discovery, accepts the child and his wife and the implication is they live happily ever after, although I am sure that, in Victorian society, the prejudices of people will cause many problems and much heartache for the new family.
Silver Blaze was a mystery which had a glut of intriguing clues and Holmes working through them to find the culprit. The Yellow Face really only has the one clue – the yellow, staring face; but this is by the fact that the truth of the mystery is emotional and rooted firmly in the prejudices of Victorian society. This contrasts with Silver Blaze but means they are both good stories but for different reasons.
The cast for this story is relatively with substantial parts only for Holmes, Watson, the husband Grant Munro, and the wife, Effie Munro. All are performed well which is good because this story is quite a talky one with Munro recounting much of the story to Holmes. Effie, though a good performance, spends most of the story crying and being hysterical, pleading with her husband time and again. Quite why he so readily accepts her protestations to not interfere, I am not sure, because she is so obviously hiding something that I am surprised it takes him so long to actually enter the cottage (the first time he does, the nurse and child escape through a back door before discovery) and find the truth.
It does tickle my funny bone that the Munros live in Norbury which nowadays is effectively a suburb of Croydon, one of the more multi-cultural supported parts of our country.
A good little mystery and definitely one of the Holmes stories I have enjoyed the most so far.
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