BBC Radio: The Return Of Sherlock Holmes - The Norwood Builder Review

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Andrew East returns to the Merrison/Williams team for this week's review of the audio adventures of Sherlock Holmes.


We continue in the company of the consulting detective with the adventure of the Norwood Builder. Now this is an intriguing little mystery.

A young lawyer is employed by a builder in slightly mysterious circumstances (shades of the Adventure of the Stockbroker’s Clerk). It emerges that the builder, Jonas Oldacre, is known by the lawyer, John Hector MacFarlane, because Oldacre was once engaged to Macfarlane’s mother, before she ended the relationship.

It a whirlwind of events, and it soon looks as if Macfarlane has murdered Oldacre and burnt his body in a huge fire. Macfarlane arrives at 221b Baker Street in distress, desperate for Holmes to clear his name.

What makes this case so interesting is that Holmes knows by instinct that Macfarlane is innocent and yet all the evidence points clearly to his guilt, so much so that Lestrade is on the brink of arresting him throughout the story and it is only his respect for Holmes that holds him back.

The reveal of the case is that Oldacre has faked his murder as revenge against Macfarlane’s mother. He is actually living, secretly, in a hidden room in the house which Holmes reveals by smoking the fraudster out.

Clive Merrison is back in our marathon as Holmes for this case and excellent he is too. He is a more human Holmes than Briggs’s portrayal and his joy at having a new case and the frustration of knowing something is wrong with the situation but being unable to pinpoint it, are palpable in his performance. Michael Williams gives solid support as Watson, although I find him to be less compelling than Richard Earl. I think this is primarily because, for the Big Finish Sherlock Holmes stories, he is ever present as the narrator and has become the ‘voice’ of the range; whereas Williams is very much the sidekick/support to Merrison’s more charismatic Holmes.

This story has a good supporting cast including Donald (Monster of Peladon) Gee as Lestrade and Peter (Wallace and Gromit/Ice Warriors) Sallis as Jonas Oldacre.

A strong case for Mr Holmes and we continued in Merrison’s company for the next two stories: The Solitary Cyclist and Black Peter.

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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