Andrew East continues his journey through the audio adventures of Sherlock Holmes.
The Solitary Cyclist is a case for Sherlock Holmes I remember well from the Jeremy Brett series. The image of the lone female cyclist being followed by a mysterious bearded man has stuck with me, although I did not remember the intricacies nor solution of the case.
This audio adaptation of the story for the BBC Radio series with Clive Merrison is excellent. It’s two main guest stars are Susannah Harker and Dennis Quilley and both are also excellent.
The story finds a young woman, Violet, working as a governess for Carruthers, a man recently returned from South Africa (where he knew Violet’s wealthy uncle). She regularly returns to her home to visit her mother and on these trips begins to be followed by a mysterious bearded man on a bicycle. When she tries to confront him, he disappears.
Violet goes to Holmes for advice on the situation and, although initially reluctant to take on the case, Holmes and Watson are soon visiting Surrey.
It emerges that Woodley, an associate of Carruthers, is planning to forcefully marry Violet to have access to an inheritance left to her by her uncle. Carruthers is the bearded cyclist, who has been silently protecting Violet from a kidnap attempt by Woodley – but who is also attracted to her enough to ask her to marry him (despite Violet already being engaged to another man).
Holmes and Watson manage to rescue Violet in an action-packed sequence and the truth of the situation is revealed.
What I found fascinating about this story is the strong role of Violet Smith. She is an independent, confident woman, portrayed exceptionally well by Susannah Harker. When she first meets Holmes, who is initially disinterested in her case, she refuses to take no for an answer and insists Holmes at least give her advice. Her confident manner is clearly one of the reasons that Holmes decides to accept the case after all. Also, her interactions with Carruthers, and Woodley, show a woman who is not willing to fit into the Victorian society stereotype that women of good standing were expected to fit into. Despite the presence of a woman on the throne, Victorian England was still very much a man’s world.
The mystery is also a good one. There are a few possible suspects as to who is following Violet: Carruthers, Woodley and possibly even her fiancee who we introduced to briefly at the beginning of the play as he heads off for an extended period away. The script deliberately paints him as slightly over-protective of Violet making it feasible that he may secretly return to keep an eye on her.
The usual good performances from Clive Merrison and Michael Williams round off a neat little package.
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