The old-time radio show never really went away. Like most media, it’s simply adapted, notably through some Audible Originals. How appropriate that one of their most recent dramas, Sherlock Holmes: The Voice of Treason, is a new adventure featuring the legendary detective who has, after all, adapted and endured for almost 230 years.
Set some time after Holmes’ miraculous return from Reichenbach Falls, the great detective is convinced that his arch nemesis Professor Moriarty, has also survived. Holmes’ obsession with finding Moriarty drives him to take morally questionable actions, including leaving kidnapped children waiting for rescue. Before he and Watson can finish arguing over his heartlessness, Mycroft Holmes demands their attention on an urgent matter.
Queen Victoria has been kidnapped. There’s been conflict in the castle as the Queen’s sympathies have recently turned toward her “Mohammadan” subjects, to the displeasure of her son and advisers. Meanwhile, a greater unrest grows in the London streets as a group of anarchists prepare to make a statement.
Word of the Queen’s abduction could be the spark that upends the entire country and, with her scheduled to make a public appearance, the clock is ticking. No one but Holmes can unravel the mystery in time, but to do so he’ll need to work with some unusual partners.
As Holmes, actor Nicholas Boulton creates a haughty, heroic, and hammy presence. This isn’t an emotionally tortured Holmes, although Watson thinks his friend could benefit from some introspection. Kobna Holdbrook-Smith plays a weary and exasperated Watson, the opposite of Holmes in every way. Some of the other actors do double-duty, and occasionally sound effects are just noise (like during a fistfight), but that’s part of the charm.
The case is filled with twists and turns that are arguably soap-operatic, though still fun. An over-reliance on flashbacks quickly grows wearisome, however, and continues through to the very end. Rough language and the inclusion of contemporary attitudes are unfortunate additions to an adventure-mystery that doesn’t need them. Still, neither is so excessive as to take away from the story.
Mystery writer P.D. James wrote in her book Talking about Detective Fiction, "There can be no doubt that the detective story produces a reassuring relief from the tensions and responsibilities of daily life; it is particularly popular in times of unrest, anxiety and uncertainty, when society can be faced with problems which no money, political theories, or good intentions seem able to solve or alleviate."
In these uncertain times with difficulties that seem to never end, there’s a comfort in returning to a form where facts and reason lead to definite conclusions and catharsis. Like the mystery story, even though our lives are filled with distractions and false trails, we can know how our story will end, with justice and redemption. (Audible)
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