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"The Peculiar Persecution of Mr John Vincent Harden" is the second episode of Series 1 of the BBC Radio 4 series The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, written by Bert Coules. It was first broadcast on February 13, 2002. In it, Holmes and Watson receive a mysterious metal object found in a dead man's stomach, which holds a vital clue to his death.

Plot[]

Holmes receives a mysterious object in the mail, which he shows to Watson. It is small and bullet-like, and no note accompanies the package. By examining the box he deduces that it was extracted from the stomach of the deceased tobacco millionaire, John Vincent Harden. Harden was murdered only a few days previously, shot at close range in his study by a person who was seen but not idenitifed. Holmes presumes the metal object was found during the autopsy, and that someone sent it to him as a test. He tells Watson that he has telegraphed Harden's widow to confirm his hypothesis.

Holmes and Watson visit Harden's widow, who congratulates Holmes on correctly deciphering her test. She tells him the police are baffled, and Holmes admits that he also finds the circumstances unusual. He accepts her commission to solve her husband's murder. Mrs Harden leads them into the house, and points out the suite of offices contaning her husbands study. She tells Holmes he shared the suite with two other employees: a typist and Michael Phillips, his personal secretary. Though her husband rarely received visitors, a man had called on her husband five days prior. Only Phillips had seen him: the offices have a separate entrance from the main house, and the typist had been off that day.

They enter the offices and meet Phillips. He tells them that the visitor did not have an appointment, but that Harden admitted him anyway on hearing his name. Holmes asks Mrs Harden to wait in the main house, and asks Phillips to show him and Watson to his office. When they are alone, Phillips admits that the usually fearless Harden appeared terrified when he heard the visitor's name, John Smith. The three then proceed to Harden's office. Phillips explains that he rushed to Harden after hearing the gunshot, and was almost knocked over by Smith as he rushed to leave. Phillips had attempted to apprehend Smith after seeing Harden's body, but by that point he had left. Holmes asks Phillips to demonstrate where he found the body, facedown beside the desk with the gun underneath him. Holmes learns that the window was open, and that the shot was unusually muffled. After Phillips leaves, Holmes discovers a partly burned cushion used to silence the shot. Before leaving, Holmes asks a few further questions of Mrs Harden. He learns that Harden travelled frequently alone, but that he had not done so in a while.

Holmes visits Scotland Yard to view Harden's autopsy report, which indicates that he did not swallow the cylinder by force. He and Watson return to Harden's study. Holmes believes Harden swallowed the cylinder voluntarily, but can't figure out when, or why. Eventually, he realizes the object is a key, and he begins to search for a hidden safe in the room. Watson suggest questioning the cleaning staff, which allows Holmes to locate the safe in a souvenir cabinet. Opening it, he discovers a checkbook in the name of John Smith. He informs Mrs Harden and Phillips that "Smith" had been writing monthly checks for £20, payable also to John Smith - though that amount had increased to £200 for the past three months.

Holmes visits Harden's bank, which grudgingly admits him after he threatens to send in Inspector Lestrade and the regular police. He learns that while the small monthly checks had been cashed on the spot, the final three checks had been paid to a separate account, by another man - another John Smith. Holmes tells Watson he had discovered the man's address, in Wales.

Holmes and Watson travel to Wales and meet John Smith, whom Holmes reveals is Harden's son. Holmes reveals that Harden had established a separate family under the name John Smith many years ago. Harden's son, who shared his assumed name, had discovered his father's true identity after his mother's death several months previously. Smith was angry at Harden for allowing himself and his mother to live in poverty while he maintained his double-life, he began blackmailing the millionaire. The regular small checks had been from Harden's income as Smith, while the three large checks had been blackmail payments to his son. However, Smith tell the detective he did not kill his father. When he finally confronted Harden in person, his father had offered him a huge sum to go away. When Smith refused to take the bribe, Harden despaired, swallowed the key to conceal the evidence of his double-life, and shot himself in the heart.

Smith confesses his blackmail to the police, and Holmes tells Mrs Harden the truth about her husband. She decides to meet Smith, and to help him in the future.

Cast[]

Trivia[]

  • The case was inspired by a reference in "The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist": "He was immersed at the moment in a very abstruse and complicated problem concerning the peculiar persecution to which John Vincent Harden, the well-known tobacco millionaire, had been subjected."
  • Holmes speaks the famous line "the game is afoot," originally from "The Adventure of the Abbey Grange".
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