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Audio Book Review


The Darker Side of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Volume Two


Author: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Read by: Phil Reynolds
Fantom Films
RRP: £13.99
ISBN: 978 1 90626 356 0
Available 01 November 2010

This is not a ‘singular’ retail release, as it’s the second of two audio CD releases from Fantom Films (that’s an in-joke for followers of the writings of SACD). This time there are six short stories, again all read by Phil Reynolds, on three discs, with a total running time of 190 minutes. This collection of some of the more fantastical or macabre tales written by Sherlock Holmes creator and author of The Lost World, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is described as gothic. Phil Reynolds is an experienced actor, writer and voice artist.

In The New Catacomb, an expert in Roman antiquities - a man of German and Italian extraction - befriends an English scholar of similar repute. Although not working together, they discuss their discoveries over a period of time. When the German makes a major find, the Englishman begs to be in on it. However, he is asked about his own secret as an example of his trustworthiness. He is forced to tell the inside story of a relationship scandal he was involved in, and the woman he stole from an unknown man and then scorned. The German is satisfied and leads him to the catacomb. This is a very enjoyable audio tale, and the accents of the characters sound understated rather than comical. You don’t need to be Captain Mensa, though, to quickly comprehend how the story will end.

In Playing With Fire, a group of spiritualists perform a séance with a medium. Here they meet with a Frenchman, who explains to them the power of thought; how thinking about something can manifest it. Through the medium a presence makes itself known, and the group get to question the deceased person... to a point. However, they are soon terrified by a shocking new sight. Although told in a mature and formal manner, this is a pretty mundane story of mysticism, similar to that which we have seen played out in many a film and TV anthology.

The Terror of Blue John Gap tells the story of a man who stays at a country house, and comes across a chasm, the site of an old Roman mine. It is the subject of local myths and legends, wherein a terrible creature lurks and emerges to kill sheep. The man investigates the deep caverns, but loses his candle in a rushing stream. In the utter darkness he has an encounter with the monster. Eventually, he finds his bearings and escapes, vowing to return and seek out the creature, when better equipped. This is an immensely enjoyable tale. The idea of something unknown lurking just out of sight continues to intrigue and send shivers even to this day. Retold as a diary entry, as many of Conan Doyle’s stories are, the chronicle peels back layers to the mystery without ever revealing exactly what the beast is.

In The Case of Lady Sannox, a well-to-do surgeon is requested by a stranger to attend a fatally ill lady who has been poisoned by an ancient dagger. The situation is perilous, but the surgeon is renowned for the success of his daring procedures. But is everything as it seems? This story revolves around an act of revenge, as many of these audio stories from SACD do, and in terms of both format and content is very similar to The Ring of Thoth, from Volume One.

In The Brown Hand, a celebrated Indian surgeon invites relatives individually to his house in order to decide who will receive his inheritance and so head the family. He connects with one particular gentleman who has expressed an interest in spiritualism, and urges him to stay in a room in which the spirit of an Indian man appears every night searching for his lost hand. This tale is a little different, and all the stronger for it. On the surface a regular ghost story, it manages to be both simple and compelling.

In The Los Amigos Fiasco, a small Mexican town adopts the recent but not wholly successful method of capital punishment, electrocution. The experts agree that a higher voltage should be employed to ensure the procedure works. However, a German expert disagrees, and is proved correct when the guilty man, rather than dying, has his life span increased. This is a relatively short tale, based on the idea that the human body acts as a chemical battery. I think that Reynolds’ adopted accent is superfluous, but he just about gets away with it.

The content of this collection is significantly more enjoyable and varied than Volume One. I treat these examples as a piece of literary history; no where near as powerful and momentous as his Sherlock Holmes novels and short stories, but nevertheless enjoyable and worthy of preservation.


Ty Power

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