Take a dash of Agatha Christie, a sprinkling of Midsomer Murders and other similar British detective shows, a top draw cast and the team at Big Finish and you have Shilling & Sixpence Investigates. This is the fourth of the Big Finish Originals range to be released this year and, like the previous entries, this caters for audiences just outside the sphere of regular Big Finish tastes.
Headlined by the incomparable pairing of Celia Imrie and David Warner as Lavinia Sixpence and Desmond Shilling, this production finds a fantastic balance between humour and darkness without letting one overwhelm the other.
There is not too much that can be revealed here plot wise (for fear of spoilers) but it is safe to say that there are many twists (some of them very unexpected) along the eight half-hour episodes that will keep the listener gripped.
The series is based on a murder mystery theatre series by Nigel Fairs called The Morlington Mysteries that has been running in England for over two decades. Every month Fairs has written new episodes of the drama and audiences have been known to travel from around the country to find out what happens next. As he says in the included interviews however, these scripts are not just audio versions of old scripts but rather strong reworkings of scripts he has used (and has combined for this production) and the tone of them is very different to the theatrical versions. The obvious familiarity with the landscape and the characters of the drama shine through as Fairs has himself written the entire series.
Fairs is also part of the cast, as are Doctor Who regulars Louise Jameson, Matthew Waterhouse and Lisa Bowerman. Other performances of note are played by Abi Harris (who plays a remarkable eight distinct roles), and Radley Mason.
Directed with flair by Samuel Clemens (who also has a couple of roles) and with a sound and music design by Fairs and Edward Patrick White, this will be a great listen to people who enjoy a good, old-fashioned whodunit that will keep them guessing.
Full credit to the Big Finish team for once again daring to venture beyond the sci-fi bubble and try something new to entice new listeners to their fold. Like other releases in this series, regular listeners may not completely enjoy the genre but it will please the many other fans of the genre that it represents.
Reviewed by Rodney Hrvatin
Rating out of 10: 9
Distributed by: Big Finish Productions
Released: September 2018
RRP: $17 Digital Download