Elementary 3, Sky Living, with Jonny Lee Miller, Lucy Liu PREVIEW

Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller), Kitty (Ophelia Lovibond), Watson (Lucy Liu) in Elementary: Enough Nemesis to Go Around
Three’s a crowd? Holmes, Kitty and Watson. Pics: BSkyB

Rating: ★★★

Sky Living: starts Tuesday, 11 November, 9pm

Story: Sherlock tries to build bridges with Watson as he returns to New York with a new apprentice in tow. 

THEY SAID it would never work, that it was the Americans trying to copy the success of the Beeb’s brilliant Sherlock, that ‘Elementary, my dear Watson’ was never said by the great sleuth in Conan Doyle’s novels. But here Elementary is, back for a third series.

OK, it’s not as witty or tricky or clever as Sherlock, but this modern-day transplant of the detective to New York is always good fun. Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu are inspired casting, and really make the odd-couple dynamic come alive. It always has just enough intrigue, eccentricity and humour to make it an amusing hour.

Part of the problem for the writers, however, is that they need to keep juggling the undercurrent of potential romance, because if Sherlock Holmes and Joan Watson do ever fall into a clinch, it’s show over. It’ll be out of plot, or turn into McMillan & Wife.

Captain Gregson has a replacement for Holmes

They certainly are far away from any emotional entanglement in this series opener (of a 24-part run).

A frosty welcome for Sherlock

Their relationship is in tatters after their falling out over Sherlock’s brother, Mycroft. Watson has left the Holmes’s brownstone home while Holmes has been in London doing a few shifts for MI6.

Now he’s back, looking a bit Forrest Gumpish with his buttoned-up shirt, sheepishly apologising to stony-faced Watson and trying to wheedle his way back into working for Captain Gregson.

Neither welcome the sleuth with open arms, particularly Watson, who now has her own spot on Gregson’s team.

New face Kitty Winter

Fortunately, there is a devilishly tricky murder to sort out and Sherlock’s nous could come in handy. It’s a closed room mystery – or closed elevator mystery (with a suitably madcap solution) – involving the shooting of a detective and a key witness against arch criminal and guest star Gina Gershon.

Lucy Liu and Gina Gershon in Elementary
Watson confronts Allison March

Sherlock also has a new apprentice in tow, Brit gal Kitty (Ophelia Lovibond), who tangles with Watson when they come to blows in the street.

It is possible to detect a few clues to a thawing in the stand-off between Holmes and Watson by the end of the episode, but Kitty should stir the plot up nicely in coming weeks.

Cast: Jonny Lee Miller Sherlock Holmes, Lucy Liu Dr Joan Watson, Aidan Quinn Captain Tobias Gregson, Jon Michael Hill Detective Marcus Bell, Ophelia Lovibond Kitty, Raza Jaffrey Andrew, Gina Gershon Allison March

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Sherlock Holmes – Past, Present, Future

Guest writer Rebecca Gray looks at the personal file of Sherlock Holmes, the greatest detective the world has seen, and who, following the extraordinary success of the third series of the BBC’s Sherlock, is set to conquer the world in new guises…

Mystery buffs are captivated by charismatic crime fighters, and perhaps none has been embraced more enthusiastically than Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock, a modern-day Holmes vehicle starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the eccentric detective, and Martin Freeman as his partner, Dr John Watson, currently provides some of the most popular programming on television. Past, present and future, Sherlock Holmes rules the roost, so we’ll continue to see his legacy in pop culture, including various media interpretations of his idiosyncratic adventures. But what’s behind the rise of this popular character, and where can fans fill their need for more Sherlock Holmes?

1. History

Sherlock Holmes is a character created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a Scottish doctor and author.  The original character appeared in more than 50 short stories and four novels, beginning with the first novel, A Study in Scarlet, which was published in 1887. Readership grew leaps and bounds, as the public embraced the first series of short stories published in The Strand Magazine, in 1891.

2. Inspiration and Character Development

Holmes’ character is thought to be derived from a pair of doctors author Doyle worked with in Scotland, including one tied to Edinburgh police work. But Doyle himself has also been cited as an inspiration for some of the character’s signature traits, including his heightened capacity for deductive reasoning. According to Doyle’s tales, Holmes developed these powers at university, before deciding to take detective work as a career.

3. Holmes Societies

Two primary societies dedicated to Sherlock Holmes were formed in the 1930s, still operating today. The American, Baker Street Irregulars were organised in 1937, devoted to literary studies of Holmes and Doyle; while the Sherlock Holmes Society in London originally came together in 1934.

4. Copyright and Public Domain

Copyrights expired in UK in 1980, placing Sherlock Holmes material in the public domain. In the United States, however, some pieces published after 1923 remain protected by copyrights. In 2013, a court ruled the characters of Holmes and Watson are themselves included in public domain, perhaps opening the door for further interpretation of these Doyle characters.

5. Film and Other Portrayals

Basil Rathbone

Holmes is consistently identified as one of the most prolific characters portrayed on stage and in films. As many as 200 movies contain Holmes-derived characters, portrayed by dozens of actors, dating to the turn of the century. Basil Rathbone, for example, played Holmes in more than a dozen early-1940s films, as well as radio spots running concurrently. Jeremy Brett was another outstanding Holmes in ITV’s long-running series, while Billy Wilder made a terrific film version starring Robert Stephens, called The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. Peter O’Toole, Michael Caine, Roy Hudd, Christopher Lee, Charlton Heston, Peter Cushing, John Cleese, Roger Moore, John Gielgud and many more have donned the deer stalker.

6. Robert Downey and Jude Law

In 2009, Robert Downey Jr reprised the Holmes character for a Hollywood blockbuster film, tapping Jude Law as his sidekick Watson. The sensational portrayal ignited a whole new following for the character, which was crafted in Holmes essence, but emphasised eccentric tendencies not always played-up in earlier portrayals. The well-received film was expanded with a 2011 sequel called Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. Downey has been recognised with awards for his interpretation, including a Golden Globe for the first film.

7. Elementary

American television viewers continue to embrace a contemporary interpretation of Doyle’s Holmes character, which first aired in 2012, on the television series Elementary. The vehicle, set in the United States, stars Jonny Lee Miller as a modern-day Holmes, paired with a female version of the Watson character, played by Lucy Liu.

8. What’s in the Cards for Sherlock Holmes?

With copyright issues settled, and public interest clamouring for more Sherlock Holmes, there are no limits to what we might see from Doyle’s enduring character. While a comedy version starring Will Ferrell as Sherlock Holmes seems to be off the cards for now, a third instalment in the popular Robert Downey Jr Sherlock franchise is set for future release. Additional rumblings of a Chinese production and even a Punjabi Sherlock may bring even greater diversity to Sherlock Holmes’ ever-evolving legacy.

Author Byline: This guest post is contributed by Rebecca Gray, who writes for Backgroundchecks.org. She welcomes your comments at her email id: GrayRebecca14@gmail.com.

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Creating Sherlock – Steven Moffat, Sue Vertue, Mark Gatiss at Crimefest

Sherlock creators Sue Vertue, Mark Gatiss, Steven Moffat at Crimefest 2013. Pic R Jarossi
Sue Vertue, Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat. (Pic: R Jarossi)

‘HOLMES WAS a dangerous young man doing exciting stuff,’ writer/co-creator Steven Moffat told fans of BBC1’s Sherlock at Bristol Crimefest on Saturday. He was explaining how the makers wanted to reinvent the character to be as thrilling as he would have been to Victorian readers. ‘We wanted to strip out all the stuff of making it in period.’

He was sitting alongside his co-writer Mark Gatiss, who also plays Mycroft, and Sue Vertue, executive producer of the hit series and also his Moffat’s wife.

The organisers of Crimefest, the annual crime fiction convention held at Bristol’s Marriott hotel, have long wanted to get the trio behind Sherlock to come and talk about the series, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman

‘We had no idea how people were going to take it to their hearts,’ said Mark Gatiss. ‘It made Benedict Cumberbatch a star.’

Filming on the show, they revealed, has stopped for the moment, while Martin Freeman flies off to New Zealand to film more of The Hobbit. ‘Filming [of the third series] is going well,’ Sue Vertue said. ‘We’re having fun.’

While not giving away secrets about the new stories – The Empty Hearse, The Sign of Three and a so

Sherlock BBC1, Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman
Sherlock and Watson. Pic: BBC

far secret third story – they did talk about the trial and error process of refining the modern Sherlock (they tried Benedict Cumberbatch in jeans at one point), the difficulty of coming up with brilliant in deductions for a contemporary world (Arthur Conan Doyle became slapdash here, according to Moffat) and how Sherlock’s mannerism in steepling his fingers under his chin was borrowed from Jeremy Brett’s version on ITV.

While Moffat said he would be happy to continue making Sherlock, both he and Gatiss agreed that if Cumberbatch or Freeman – ‘Two of the biggest movie stars in the world,’ said Moffat – decided to leave, they would not want to continue.

Finally, in response to a question from the floor about whether Moffat, who’s also the showrunner for Doctor Who, would consider Cumberbatch as a future Time Lord, the answer was no – ‘Benedict couldn’t do another icon.’ That, he suggested, would be too confusing.

But Gatiss added, ‘There’s nothing to stop him playing James Bond.’

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Elementary starring Jonny Lee Miller, Lucy Liu PREVIEW

Joan Watson and Sherlock Holmes
Helluva backdrop for the new Holmes – Lucy Liu and Jonny Lee Miller. Pics: BSkyB


Rating: ★★★★ 

Sky Living: starts Tuesday, 23 October, 9pm

Story: An unhappy episode in London and a stint in drug rehabilitation pitches consulting detective Sherlock Holmes into a spell of recuperation in New York. At the insistence of his father, Sherlock is forced to take on a ‘sober companion’, Dr Joan Watson, who is to monitor his recovery.

After the kerfuffle over this US update supposedly ripping-off the BBC’s Sherlock – complete with the latter’s creator Steven Moffat ‘annoyed’ by the cheek of it – here at last is Holmes in modern New York. Let battle commence.

Jonny Lee Miller is, of course, the consulting detective in this new version from CBS, the twist being that he is recovering from his drug addiction in New York at the insistence of his father, who also lands him with a ‘sober companion’, Dr Joan Watson, to keep him on the straight and narrow.

Sherlock’s ‘helper monkey’
Watson being a woman may have the purists round Baker Street spluttering in their tea, but Lucy Liu has many good moments with Miller in the opening episode. She is, of course, bemused by his deducing all her secrets – that she dislikes her job because she has two alarm clocks and hates getting up for it, that she is a surgeon who killed a patient, etc – and he calls her his ‘addict sitter’ and ‘helper monkey’.

But Watson sticks up for herself, and by the end she’s making deductions about Holmes – for instance, sniffing out that he went off the rails in London because of a broken romance.

Aidan Quinn as Toby Gregson
They are swiftly pulled into investigating the murder of a woman at her home. Holmes can just walk into the murder scene because Aidan Quinn is the senior detective involved, and he’s encountered Sherlock while on secondment in London.

The New York forensics guy wants who the cocky Brit is that’s making all the brilliant deductions about the murder scene, but naturally Holmes is quickly accepted as a brilliant case closer. He works out that her body has been put in a hidden panic room, and that the perpetrator was not an intruder but someone who knew her.

Elementary v the BBC’s Sherlock
It’s an intriguing, but not particularly believable case (how many Sherlock escapades are?), but the fun of it is rightly centred on the tension and bonding between Holmes and Watson. This works well, thanks to the lead actors.

So how does Sky Living‘s new import compare to Sherlock? Steven Moffat has nothing to fear. Elementary is entertaining and shot superbly round New York, but it doesn’t have the relish and verve of the Beeb’s drama.

Most portrayed character on screen in the world
Jonny Lee Miller’s Holmes is politer and nicer than Benedict Cumberbatch’s near autistic version. And the atmosphere of almost supernatural foreboding is missing, though that may come in later mysteries.

With Sherlock Holmes being easily the world’s most portrayed fictional character on screen, there is certainly room for this sharp and witty newcomer.

Cast: Jonny Lee Miller Sherlock Holmes, Lucy Liu Dr Joan Watson, Aidan Quinn Toby Gregson, Jon Michael Hill Marcus Bell

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Third Degree: Matt Hilton, thriller writer and creator of Joe Hunter

We brought thriller writer MATT HILTON into headquarters for questioning about his TV and reading activities. Matt has written a string of bestsellers and will this weekend be giving a talk on Unarmed Combat in Crime Fiction: The Myths Dispelled at Bristol’s CrimeFest. As you’d expect from a martial arts devotee and the creator of the full-blooded Joe Hunter thrillers, Matt likes a story that packs a wallop…

Your favourite British crime series or thriller on TV?
These days I don’t get the opportunity to watch much TV, and being the type who can’t bear to miss a single episode of something I like, prefer not to watch the first in a series in case I miss the rest of it. However, there are certain series that I record on SKY+ in order that I don’t miss them. One of the most recent ‘must watches’ that I committed to were the TV adaptations of Chris Ryan’s thriller series’ StrikeBack and StrikeBack: Project Dawn, both of which were terrific and kept me thoroughly entertained. I block watched both series back-to-back over one long weekend and loved it.

Favourite US crime series or thriller on TV?
Recently, I was watching The Event – a thriller – and was enthralled. It was fast and furious with loads of twists and turns and I couldn’t get enough of it. I’m now waiting for the concluding chapters to be shown but heard a nasty rumour that the show has been discontinued. I really hope that isn’t the case. Something similar happened to me a few years ago when my favourite thriller series was American Gothic and the damn thing was cancelled before anything was resolved. I was gutted.

Top TV cop?
I have to admit to not watching too many cop shows per se, but one that I really enjoyed and hoped there’d be more of was Touching Evil, starring Robson Green as DCI Creegan, who as I recall had been injured during a shooting and had strange abilities to ‘sense’ criminals. Touching Evil was popular when other series about FBI profilers and such were all the rage, and was a bit darker and grittier than Cracker (which I also loved).

Which unfilmed book/character should be made into a TV drama?
If I’m not allowed to mention my own Joe Hunter (of course I’d like to see my own character immortalised on film), then I’d have to go with John Connolly’s Charlie Parker series. Handled right, I think a series with Parker, Louis and Angel, and all the dark supernatural undertones would be terrific television. Running a close second to that would be a series featuring Robert Crais’ Elvis Cole and Joe Pike.

Sky One’s Strike Back series

If one of your novels were filmed, who would you cast to be the hero?
I’m often asked this question at author events and you’d be surprised by the diversity of actors people mention who they’d like to see play Joe Hunter. Gerard Butler, Liam Neeson, Clive Owen and Sean Bean have all been mentioned, as well as some younger actors like Tom Hardy and Michael Fassbender. But if pushed, I’d like to throw Max Martini into the mix, as he ‘looks’ the way imagine Joe Hunter looks and has the physical and emotional skills as an actor to portray him on screen.

What do you watch with a guilty conscience (or what’s your guilty pleasure)?
I’ve a real interest in the paranormal, and spend a lot of my free time watching ghost hunting investigations on TV. I’m what’s known as an open minded skeptic and prefer the scientific approach to the ‘medium and psychic shows’, and would one day love to get involved in a bona fide investigation.

Least favourite cop show/thriller?
I’m not a fan of the cosy-type shows, and can’t abide the nonsense you see on shows like Murder, She Wrote or Rosemary and Thyme.

Do you prefer The Wire or The Sopranos?
The Wire, but to be fair I didn’t see much of The Sopranos when it aired.

Marple/Poirot or Sherlock Holmes?
Sherlock Holmes all the way. I’ve never read a Sherlock Holmes book, but have seen most of them adapted for cinema or TV, and still enjoy most of them. Basil Rathbone as Sherlock is still in my mind’s eye whenever I think of the character, but the TV series with Simon Brett and even the recent movies with Robert Downey Jnr have all floated my boat. I’ve never been much of a fan of either Marple or Poirot.

Wallander – BBC or the Swedish version?
Unfortunately, I haven’t seen either, so can’t comment. I have seen other Swedish movies and TV dramas and thought they were beautifully shot and usually melancholy – but that’s all right: I like melancholy crime dramas.

US or British television crime dramas?
I think if I counted the number of shows that I have watched and enjoyed over the years then I’d probably have to plumb for US crime dramas, but that’s not to say I haven’t enjoyed some terrific UK TV as well. I loved Touching Evil and Cracker, but funnily enough both were made into pale imitations of the original Brit versions when adapted for US TV.

Your favourite crime/thriller writers?
I’ve a whole raft of authors that I love reading and admire, and I’d probably be here all day mentioning them all, but I do have certain ‘must reads’ and these are John Connolly, Robert Crais, Jack (J.A.) Kerley, Dean Koontz, Simon Kernick, Jeff Abbott, and Jeffrey Deaver. Stuart Neville, Ken Bruen, Adrian Magson, and Jonathan Maberry are also authors whose books I look out for.

Best new crime author to look out for?
A recent crime thriller I thoroughly loved was Hunted by Emlyn Rees. It put me in mind of a collaboration between Simon Kernick and Jeff Abbott, and was right up my street. Tom Wood’s The Hunter was also terrific, and also another excellent ‘gritty’ crime book was The Drop by Howard Lynskey.

Favourite non-crime/thriller author?
I’d probably go for Dean Koontz or Stephen King. Koontz’s Dark Rivers of the Heart was a superb book, and King’s The Stand is probably the best book ever written in my opinion.

Favourite crime movie or thriller?
I loved the Jason Bourne movies (including the TV adaptation with Richard Chamberlain) and also David Morrell’s Brotherhood of the Rose (with Robert Mitchum), and have also enjoyed recent spy thriller/assassin movies like Salt and Hannah, and am a big fan of The Long Kiss Goodnight, but if pressed for only one answer I’d have to go with Silence of the Lambs which I thought was a masterpiece.

You’ve been framed for murder. Which fictional detective/sleuth would you want to call up?
I’d have to go with Robert Crais’s Elvis Cole – the world’s best detective – because if Elvis couldn’t prove my innocence then his sidekick Joe Pike would kick the bad guys’ asses and break me out of prison.

Matt is the author of short stories and editor of ACTION: PULSE POUNDING TALES VOL 1, which was released this month and features crunching stories by authors such as Stephen Leather, Matt himself, Zoe Sharp and 30 others (including CrimeTimePreview editor RJ). He is, of course, best known for his Joe Hunter thriller series of bestsellers, the latest of which is NO GOING BACK.

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Sherlock series 2 A Scandal in Belgravia PREVIEW

Meeting his match? Sherlock and Irene Adler. Pics: BBC

Rating ★★★★★

BBC1 from Sunday, 1 January, 8.10pm

Story: Compromising photographs and blackmail threaten the British establishment, while Sherlock begins a duel of wits with an antagonist who will always be THE Woman.

On the evidence of this first case, one can only deduce that if there is a crime drama in 2012 that fizzes with more wit and panache than Sherlock it’s going to be one stonking show.

Series two of the Holmes modern reboot was originally due for autumn 2011 but the lengthy filming schedule pushed it back to the first day of the New Year (going out in the US in May), and it is definitely worth the wait.

Lara Pulver as The Woman

Dominating Sherlock’s thoughts – Lara Pulver as The Woman

‘A Scandal in Belgravia’ again cleverly updates the great sleuth, toys with his legend and is brilliantly entertaining. It is sharp, mysterious and sexy. The latter ingredient arrives in the shape of a thoroughly modern Irene Adler – intellectual rival for Sherlock, erotic foil and dominatrix. Phew…

She is played by Lara Pulver, recently seen in True Blood and Spooks, who makes the acquaintance of Holmes in the most eyebrow-raising scene the great man has ever been in. For once, he doesn’t know where to look or what to say.

Her trysting with Holmes via text messages, codes, Twitter (pseudonym: The Whip Hand) and in person exposes a new side of the detective. Is he in love? Is he vulnerable to her? As Watson points out, his partner is composing sad music to scratch out on his violin when he is parted from The Woman, as she must be known.

S&M and Holmes’s intellectual fetishes
But this being Holmes, snogging and candle-lit dinners are not the norm. It’s a lot more high octane and dangerous than that. And it was a clever stroke, so to speak, to have an S&M specialist crossing paths with Sherlock, a man with intellectual fetishes of his own.

Odd couple, played by Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman

Once Sherlock has dealt (inconclusively) with Moriarty to resolve the poolside cliffhanger from series one, the opening episode’s McGuffin is introduced in the form of compromising photos that could bring down the government/monarchy. Rogue CIA agents and terrorists join in the fun, but it is Sherlock getting into some intellectual heavy-breathing with Irene that sweeps events along.

Is Irene, who has the photos, a damsel in distress, or is she playing a double game? You almost don’t care, so electric and fun are the scenes between Holmes, Watson and Irene.

Holmes’s cruel treatment of Molly
Robert Downey Jr’s action-Holmes is deservedly doing great box office right now, but Benedict Cumberbatch’s version is better – more arrogant, colder and intimidating.

‘Any ideas?’ Lestrade asks, confronted by a puzzling murder.

Sherlock replies, ‘Eight, so far.’

And as Martin Freeman’s Watson says to Irene, ‘He will outlive god trying to have the last word.’ Though we do see flickers of emotion for once, not just regarding Irene but also when Holmes regrets his cruel treatment of smitten Molly Hooper, who works in the laboratory.

There is so much to enjoy here – Holmes summoned to Buckingham Palace wearing only a blanket, his headbutting a CIA agent, the charged bickering with Mycroft – that huge praise must go to co-creators Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat (how does Moffat manage to fit in making/writing Doctor Who with making/writing Sherlock?).

The episode also re-uses the text graphics that we saw in the first series’ opener, to economically denote what clues Holmes picks up by looking at someone (‘no gun’, ‘office worker’, ‘three dogs’), mobile messages and blog updates.

‘The Hounds of Baskerville’ and ‘The Reichenbach Fall’
Moffat and Gatiss have chosen the three major Holmes adventures for this second series, with ‘The Hounds of Baskerville’ and ‘The Reichenbach Fall’ to come (the titles are all slight adjustments on the originals).

Moffat, a Sherlock Holmes fan since childhood, explains, ‘Last time nobody knew about us and there was some scepticism about “modernising” Sherlock Holmes. And now look at Benedict and Martin, they are so famous in those roles! So far the series has sold in over 180 countries worldwide, so it’s a very big change.

‘Well this year, knowing we were a huge hit, I suppose we felt let’s do the three big things, The Woman, the Hound and the Fall. Instead of making people wait years and years, we thought – to hell with deferred pleasure, let’s just do it now, more, sooner, faster!’
 
Deferred pleasure? Not with Irene Adler around.

Benedict Cumberbatch Sherlock Holmes, Martin Freeman John Watson, Mark Gatiss Mycroft, Rupert Graves Inspector Lestrade, Una Stubbs Mrs Hudson, Andrew Scott Moriarty, Louise Brealey Molly Hooper, Lara Pulver Irene Adler.

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The House of Silk, The Silence

• Next week’s Book at Bedtime on BBC Radio 4 is The House of Silk, Anthony Horowitz’s ‘missing’ Sherlock Holmes case, read by Derek Jacobi (weeknights, 10.45pm). Dr Watson wrote the case up but considered it too shocking to be published in Holmes’s lifetime. Only now can the full story be told…

• I should thank the folk at Soda Pictures for sending me a copy of the new German crime movie The Silence (above). I was completely locked into the pace and mood of this unsettling story of two abductions of adolescent girls that occur 23 years apart, and the shattering impact these crimes have on the police and community of a town. A retired police inspector, Krischan Mittich, is convinced there is a connection between the crimes, but he is shunned by the officer in charge. This time he is determined to find the man responsible. The film moves slowly and averts its eyes from the horror of the crimes, but it is compelling, and director/writer Baran Bo Odar gives the film a distinctive, almost abstract look. Like the original version of The Killing, the film doesn’t revolve around car chases and gun fights, and it’s not a whodunit. It’s about the characters. The relationships between the killers – one reluctant, one lonely – the grieving parents, and the detectives with their smug, incompetent boss, are all superbly depicted. And the whole story reaches a shattering but believable climax. It’s a terrific debut feature from the director, with fine performances from some leading European actors – Ulrich Thomsen, Sebastian Blomberg, Katrin Sass. ★★★★★

• Latest viewing figures show the Philip Glenister thriller on BBC1, Hidden, catching a very decent 5.5m viewers on Thursday nights. That’s not far behind Spooks (5.27m). It’s the final episode tonight, and I think Glenister is superb in what has been one of 2011’s best thrillers.

Sherlock Holmes Versus Dracula PREVIEW

Halloween Night, 9pm, BBC Radio 7
Rating ★★★

Tis the season to be creepy, and BBC Radio 7 gets into the Halloween spirit nicely by disinterring this old 90-minute face-off between two of the most popular characters in fiction.

‘An appealing problem, most appealing,’ Sherlock Holmes calls the incidence of the ghostly schooner that sweeps into Whitby Bay with only the dead captain on board. The man, who has such a look of horror on his face that he barely resembles a human, has lashed himself to the wheel. The rest of the crew is nowhere to be seen, though a large dog escapes the vessel when it reaches the dock.

Holmes then learns that the only cargo carried is 50 large boxes of dirt, and that the dead captain has two puncture marks on his neck.

Bram Stoker wrote Holmes out of Dracula’s story!
For once the audience is ahead of the great sleuth and Dr Watson, so familiar are we with ‘The Adventure of the Foreign Schooner’, as Holmes calls it so prosaically. This allows the American writer Loren D Estleman, and Glyn Dearman who adapted his story for radio, to have fun linking the vampire to Holmes.

The conceit is that Watson, in his narration of Holmes’ adventures, is trying to put the record straight after that ‘spurious monograph’ by the Irishman Bram Stoker, which fails to credit Holmes for his role in the downfall of the count.

Blood-stopping screams
The action moves from Whitby to what Holmes called ‘infamous Hampstead Heath’, whose infamy has nothing to do with pop stars cruising there, but with the ‘sanguinary count’ and his chums attacking children.

John Moffatt is Holmes, Timothy West plays Watson and David March is Dracula. This is an old production, heard most recently on Radio 7 in 2007, but the whole thing is pitch perfect for Halloween night, full of foggy boats, stiff upper lips, creaking hinges and blood-stopping screams.

By the way, Radio 7 is a treasure house of great crime plays and book readings, from HRF Keating and Edgar Wallace to Mark Gatiss and John Harvey. And they’re planning something special for Sherlock Holmes’ birthday in January 2011.

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