Review: The Adventure of the Borgia Ring

Found while perusing the Sherlock Holmes Authors Group 2: The Adventure of the Borgia Ring, a brand new Holmes audio pastiche that harkens back to those old Holmes and Watson radio adventures, without the constant ads for Petri Wines. Of course, without advertising these new adventures from Jim French Productions must be bought, but the author of this story, Matthew Elliot, alerted group members that it could be heard for free for two weeks.

Borgia Ring is set before Holmes met Watson, before 221-B Baker Street and even before Holmes discovered his most famous dictum, but it has a direct link to the Canon through Wilson Hargreave, Holmes’ friend with the New York Police Bureau mentioned in The Adventure of the Dancing Men. Hargreave, while visiting London, is interviewed regarding a murder at an athletic club, where an elderly man who had obviously been in a boxing match is found dead of a sword wound.

The scene shifts to Holmes being entreated to investigate the disappearance of Lord Oxley by his daughter Judith Oxley. She is accompanied by Lord Oxley’s secretary, the rather snooty Gabriel Chase. And in answer to Holmes’ asking if anything unusual has happened recently, she tells Holmes of her upcoming marriage to Richard Brook. In fact, the night before, her father was to hand over her dowry to Mr. Brook.

Holmes and Hargreave meet after Inspector Lestrade invites Holmes to help with the investigation of the murder at the athletic club and soon it is apparent the two investigations are related. After a quick display of Holmes’ deductive skills, Hargreave begs Holmes and Inspector Lestrade to be allowed to follow the investigation.

The 50-minute story (apparently this is a double-length episode) is perfect for easy listening: not too convoluted but with enough false suspects to keep one entertained. I confess to listening while working — well, while promoting myself on facebook and twitter — and didn’t give the show the attention it deserved. But I still heard enough references to the Canon to prick my ears.

The production values are very good, apart from the annoying echo effect to indicate a reminiscence (the effects dial needs to turned down from 11). The actor portraying Holmes is very, very good, until you realize he sounds like Mr. Peabody from The Bullwinkle Show and then it’s a little harder to take him seriously. Actually, Mr. Peabody would be a great Holmes. The actor playing Hargreave has that classic voice from old time radio (think Harry Bartell from The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes mentioned at the top of this review).

I hope the next story, The Addleton Tragedy, will also be available for free listening. Many of the Imagination Theater productions can be heard on local radio stations and on Sirius satellite radio.

Sherlock Holmes: John Patrick Lowrie; Dr. Watson: Lawrence Albert; Wilson Hargreave: David Natale; Inspector Lestrade: Rick May; Gabriel Chase: Richard Ziman; Judith Oxley: Rebecca Olson; Richard Brook: Dennis Bateman; Lord Oxley: Roger Norwood

Production by Jim French; Direction by John Patrick Lowrie

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