The Sacrifice Of Sherlock Holmes by Jonathan Barnes

Sacrifice.jpgIn the years when the world thought Sherlock Holmes was dead, he and Doctor John Watson worked separately to defeat the plans of the sinister Society, a group dedicated to seizing power across the world and a group with ties to the past of Holmes himself. Watson related that story in The Judgement Of Sherlock Holmes at the request of Holmes’ brother – but Mycroft is gone, and the Society is moving once more.

It is 1921 and age is catching up with Holmes and Watson. But as the Society begins a deadly attack on London, with major landmarks being attacked every half hour, they have no choice but to join the fight against them. But that is exactly what the Society wants – their leader, known only as Agamemnon, has a personal grudge against Sherlock Holmes, one that goes back many, many years…

Big Finish only seem to make outstanding audio adventures – while they started out with science fiction, notably Doctor Who, they have long since branched out into other areas, in particular the continuing adventures of Sherlock Holmes and especially those written by Jonathan Barnes.

Those tales started with The Adventure Of The Perfidious Mariner, a tale set before His Last Bow, and continued with The Ordeals Of Sherlock Holmes, a series of tales set throughout Holmes’ career, and The Judgement Of Sherlock Holmes, an epic set after the Reichenbach Falls. Now we move to the end of Holmes’ career, as he faces his most personal ordeal. Jonathan Barnes, the author of The Somnambulist and The Domino Men, has crafted another epic, as Holmes is forced to make the ultimate sacrifice.

Nicholas Briggs and Richard Earl play Holmes and Watson, and are as outstanding as ever. I’ve said this before, but while Briggs channels Holmes’ arrogance perfectly, he also portrays for me the most human Holmes that I’ve seen or heard. It’s not hard to see why this Watson is so devoted to this Holmes – Barnes makes the effort to show a little of the humanity of Holmes, and a lot of the humanity of Watson, something that Doyle didn’t really do. Watson here is struggling to keep his wife – his third wife – safe from the Society, especially after the events of the previous adventures while still determined to help his elderly friend, despite being of a similar age himself.

It’s a thrilling tale. I’ll admit, my interest sagged a little when I realised the identity of Agamemnon early in the tale. A word of advice to listeners. If you think it’s obvious, you are wrong. If you think you’re being clever, then you’re still wrong. I had such a great theory – more than that, I was utterly convinced that I was right. But I wasn’t… Well done, that writer! However the fact that Watson realises who Agamemnon is a whole hour before he manages to actually say his name came across as a little artificial…

Barnes does add in more than emotion to the tale. There’s a whiff of science-fiction in the tale, much as in The Ordeals, and more than a small dose of spiritualism and psychics, which may irk the purists, but it comes together extremely effectively. Although I do wish that Jonathan Barnes wasn’t talking so finally about this being the end of the tales, especially given the ending…

So, an exciting, original Sherlock Holmes tale, made with the highest production values and a raft of talented actors with a sparkling script, bringing to the end a fine thirteen-hour production, ricocheting around Holmes’ lifetime (although it stands perfectly well by itself). A hugely entertaining adventure and Highly Recommended.


  1. Approximately how long do each of these tales run? I read your very enthusiastic reviews and think “Wow, I really must check those out” but I’m just lousy at finding time and circumstances where I feel I’d be able to fit one in (like drives to work, say). Maybe if I know what I’m taking on I could find the time somewhere…


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