This is very much the culmination of the arc of Sherlock Holmes adventures that Jonathan Barnes has been writing for Big Finish, and I suspect that those coming to it without knowledge of the earlier tales – particularly the preceding story – may find it a little confusing. (Obvious solution: buy and listen to those first!) For those of us who have enjoyed the saga, told across Holmes and Watson’s entire careers, it’s a fitting finale, with the title giving some hints as to what may befall the characters in the final tale.
I’m not going to spoil the many twists and turns: some will come as a complete surprise, others have a certain inevitability about them, particularly given the circularity that Barnes states in the interviews that he was seeking. There have been those who’ve queried why we’re covering these stories on a genre site, but there’s more than enough justification within this set – and I really am wondering if the lights mentioned at the end have something to do with a certain Damascus Project that we’ve been hearing about elsewhere recently!
Nick Briggs and Richard Earle are firm and confident in the roles of Holmes and Watson, allowing the characters’ age to come through when appropriate (notably in the way that they handle physical activity) but ensuring we are clear that, no matter how they might berate themselves, the pair are as acute mentally as ever they were. We have a new Mrs Watson, played magnificently by Elizabeth Rider, and Tracey Childs, Alan Cox and Frances Marshall form a deadly triumvirate of foes. Barnes may have embraced the melodrama of the period for much of the time, but within that he’s given each of the antagonists depth. Jeremy Clyde does sterling double duty as a weak willed Home Secretary and a considerably less weak bodyguard, Rackham – isn’t it about time we had a Sexton Blake revival at Big Finish? – while Jamie Hinde, Joe Jameson, Jamie Newall, and Christopher Naylor are equally distinctive. Given the ending, hopefully we’ll hear some more of Natalie Burt’s vivacious Vivienne Scott… if not in a Holmes tale, then somewhere else in the Big Finish universe.
There are a few things that you might not expect to find in a Holmes adventure – a car chase, for example – but they go with the cinematic feel of the whole piece. It’s pulp fiction done with a solid basis, and kudos to all involved.
Verdict: A suitably epic conclusion to this part of the Great Game. 9/10