Big Finish’s latest – and perhaps final - boxset featuring Sherlock Holmes sees the stakes raised higher than ever. It’s the 1920s and the Great Detective has dragged himself out of retirement to investigate the death of someone close to him. He is convinced that old foes from decades past have returned and are hatching their most diabolical scheme yet. The question is: will the elderly, fallible Holmes be able to save England this time?
What immediately hits you about The Sacrifice of Sherlock Holmes is how different it is, in tempo and structure, to classic Sherlock Holmes. Holmes and Watson aren’t idly waiting around for cases in Baker Street here – rather they are thrust headlong into one high-octane adventure that spans the four episodes. Thankfully the unorthodox approach makes for the strongest entry yet of this range.
Writer Jonathan Barnes effortlessly draws together most of the plot threads from his previous Holmes stories (The Adventure of the Perfidious Mariner, The Ordeals of Sherlock Holmes and The Judgement of Sherlock Holmes) to provide a thoroughly thrilling conclusion. It really is recommended that you catch up with the previous releases before tackling this one – though it is perfectly possible to dive in here, you won’t be able to fully appreciate the building narrative.
Continuing the jumping through Holmes’ life of previous boxsets, Sacrifice offers a fascinating chance to see these characters removed from their natural late-Victorian/Edwardian era and placed in a broken Post-WWI London. With our heroes in a less stuffy period, we are allowed to peer closer into the private lives – in particular, Dr Watson’s (third) marriage is explored far more than in all of Doyle’s work.
Further deviations from Doyle occur in the hefty helping of spiritualism in the tale (though this was something the author was famously keen on in real life). This embracing of more fantastical elements might ruffle a few Holmesian feathers but it will certainly appeal to fans of Big Finish’s other ranges, like Doctor Who and Dark Shadows. Besides, all the best Holmes stories have a smidge of the supernatural anyway - The Hound of the Baskervilles being a case in point.
Naturally, Barnes’ writing is ably supported by the talented cast, as Nicholas Briggs and Richard Earl know their way around these characters backwards by now. New listeners might find the voice of the Daleks playing the Great Detective strange at first, but Briggs’s vocal dexterity quickly dispenses with the memory of his famous monster role. Likewise, Earl’s Watson is as intelligent and endearing as the good doctor should always be, particularly excelling in the narration that carries the piece.
The Sacrifice of Sherlock Holmes really is a must-listen. Frequently surprising, occasionally emotional and never less than engrossing, Big Finish have delivered a spectacular Sherlock Holmes story unlike any other. This would definitely act as a strong end to the series, but we really hope there are more to come.
THE SACRIFICE OF SHERLOCK HOLMES / DIRECTOR: KEN BENTLEY / AUTHOR: JONATHAN BARNES / STARRING: NICHOLAS BRIGGS, RICHARD EARL, TRACEY CHILDS, JEREMY CLYDE, JAMIE HINDE, JOE JAMESON / PUBLISHER: BIG FINISH / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW