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Audio Book Review


The Return of Sherlock Holmes

Volume One


Author: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Read by: Peter Cushing
Cosmic Hobo
RRP: £19.99
ISBN: 978 0 9555158 6 6
Available 07 February 2011

“‘Holmes!’ I cried. ‘Is it really you? Can it indeed be that you are alive? Is it possible that you succeeded in climbing out of that awful abyss?’” Three years have passed since Sherlock Holmes’s apparently fatal encounter with his nemesis, Professor James Moriarty. But after the seemingly motiveless killing of a colonial official, Dr John Watson meets a mysterious book collector who reveals the truth behind that final conflict at the Reichenbach Falls. The world’s greatest sleuth is back from the dead, and once more on the trail of London’s criminal underworld in tales of mystery and deduction...

This four-CD collection contains the first four tales from the anthology The Return of Sherlock Holmes - The Empty House, The Norwood Builder, The Dancing Men and The Solitary Cyclist - all read by Peter Cushing in recordings made in 1971.

Cushing, who played the great detective several times on film and television, seems like a natural choice for narrator. His very precise mode of speech is accentuated for the Victorian setting - though on one occasion during The Empty House I thought at first that he was telling me that Ronald Adair had a passion for cars rather than cards. The narrator provides a variety of voices and accents, especially during The Norwood Builder and The Solitary Cyclist, but unfortunately there is not much distinction between his Holmes and his Watson.

My favourite stories in this collection are The Dancing Men (for its central puzzle) and The Solitary Cyclist (for its intriguing characters). Notably, both of these stories feature a violent dispute between men over their desire for a woman - though Violet Smith, the female in question in The Solitary Cyclist, comes across as the stronger character. The Empty House is also of special interest, of course, for the dramatic return of Holmes following his apparent demise in The Final Problem. The scenes involving the detective in this opening tale make for riveting listening. The endings to The Empty House, The Dancing Men and The Solitary Cyclist are all remarkable for their exciting resolutions, with Holmes and Watson in the thick of the action.

The recordings have been digitally remastered by Nick Gratwick for this CD release, which includes new sleeve notes by Holmes expert David Stuart Davies.

Some additional sound effects, such as the clatter of horses’ hooves or the report of gunfire, might have enlivened the readings further. Instead we just get a signature tune (by Edwin Sykes), Cushing’s voice and the occasional sound of the actor turning his pages. I guess BBC Audio’s recent Doctor Who talking books (which come complete with TARDIS sounds and the like) have been spoiling me!

Nevertheless, these four hours of vintage recordings, which have never before been commercially released, are sure to be of interest to Sherlockians and are well worth investigating.


Richard McGinlay

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