Written by Jonathan Barnes, The Master Of Blackstone Grange finds Sherlock Holmes (Nick Briggs) somewhat lacking focus. Moriarty is no more, Holmes is lacking a serious challenge, and it is Watson (Richard Earl) who finds a new client, Horace Grigg (Nigel Hastings) and Holmes is about to embark upon a new quest when he learns of the unexpected release from prison of one of Moriarty’s key henchmen, a certain Colonel Sebastian Moran (John Banks), a man who Holmes himself had helped commit to jail.
Suddenly there are lots of pieces in play, and both men are separately drawn to Blackstone Grange, whose new master ‘Honest’ Jim Sheedy (Harry Peacock) is newly returned form America with a fortune and a relentless desire to gain social acceptance. The reputation of the Grange as a centre for witchcraft only adds to the mystique.
The narrative focuses first on Watson, and a train trip out of London is a chance to meet American beauty Genevieve Dumont (Lucy Briggs-Owen) under whose spell he soon falls.
The flow of the plot is along familiar lines: mysterious servants, secrets a plenty, curious locals and lots of verbal sparring as Watson makes the acquaintance of those staying at the Grange. Of course, matters escalate but not before Holmes re-enters the story. He’s ignored the warnings of brother Mycroft (Tim Bentinck) and travelled in pursuit of Moran. This allows him to re-join Watson and the two of them must piece together events while learning the secrets of the Grange and of Sheedy’s fortune.
As we expect from Jonathan Barnes this is a solid piece of Holmes fiction, with a large story, memorable details and a test for Holmes’s powers of deduction. Watson has a romance, and we learn justice is not as unambiguous as we might like.
What is interesting is how the plot plays a riff on the classic Hound Of The Baskervilles, but sets it in a more intricate world where donning disguises isn’t enough to fool everyone. All through the boxset there are moments where major characters reflect on the nature of what they do and how they are no longer the same people they once were. It’s not overdone but does fit with another theme, the end of the century.
Of course the direction, performances and soundscape are as good as ever, and it also comes with The Adventure Of The Fleet Street Transparency (reviewed previously).
The Master Of Blackstone Grange is very satisfying, has resolution but also leaves more threads to be followed in later stories. One word of warning: it runs over three discs – be sure to allow time to listen, as you will be gripped and not want to pause in your enjoyment of this great story.