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"The Star of the Adelphi" 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 6, 2002. In it, Holmes and Watson head behind the scenes of the theater world to investigate the murder of a popular actor.

Plot[]

While reading the paper, Watson learns that William Terriss, a popular actor, has been murdered outside the Adelphi Theater in London. Soon after, Holmes and Watson receive a visit from Jessie Millward, a member of the Adelphi company who acted as Terriss' leading lady. She engages Holmes' service to investigate the murder on behalf of the company.

Holmes and Watson meet with the only witness to the crime, a friend of Terriss’ named John Graves. They meet behind the Adelphi to review the crime scene. Graves explains that he and Terriss entered the alley, where they saw a man waiting by the stage door wearing a heavy muffler. Terriss approached the figure in a friendly manner, carrying his cane in one hand and putting his other into his pocket. The assailant then stabbed Terriss three times before escaping. Holmes postulates that Terriss likely knew the murderer, as he did not hesitate to approach the figure in the dark alley. He also surmises that he must have known the man well, as he recognized him in spite of the darkness and the muffler covering his face.

Holmes and Watson next visit Terriss' widow, Amy. However, when Mrs Terriss learns that they have been hired by Jessie Millward, she refuses to talk to them further. Her reaction makes Holmes question whether the Terriss' marriage was as happy as reported in the press. As they are leaving, a maid tells them that the Terriss' daughter, Ellaline, has been in the hospital for several weeks.

Holmes and Watson return to the Adelphi, where Holmes challenges Jessie about her relationship with Terriss. She admits that she and Terriss were in love, and that the actor was planning to leave his wife for her. However, she says that Terriss was forced to put his plans on hold when a rival actor, Seymour Hicks, seduced and impregnated his daughter. Hicks agreed to marry Ellaline in secret, but the pregnancy resulted in the miscarriage. The complications put Ellaline in the hospital, and have ended her career. Millward also says that Hicks hated Terriss, and believed that the actor used his influence to block Hick's career. However, she denies that his accusations are true, insisting that Terriss was a good and generous man.

Holmes sends Watson to the Actor's Benevolent Society to learn more about Terriss' generosity, while he visits Seymour Hicks. At the Benevolent Society Watson meets with Charles Cottson, who confirms that Terriss was extremely generous with other actors, but kept his charity private. He shows him a letter Terriss had written on behalf of Richard Prince, a struggling actor whom the Society had until recently been supporting financially on Terriss' recommendation. Afterwards, Watson reunites with Holmes, who has been unable to locate Seymour Hicks. The two return to Mrs Terriss for information, who tells them her daughter and her husband have gone to Margate to convalesce.

At Margate, the pair visit Mr and Mrs Hicks at their hotel. Ellanine reveals that she already knows of her father's death. Seymour, however, is upset when he learns that Holmes has been engaged by Jessie Millward. He sends his wife and Dr Watson into another room to take her medicine, then angrily takes Holmes aside.

Later, Holmes informs Watson that Hicks denied all of Millward's allegations, and further, accused her of maliciously lying to implicate him. He cannot yet say, however, what Millward's motive for lying would be, or indeed whether Hicks could be lying himself. Watson, meanwhile, learned only that Ellaline also harbors a hatred for Millward, though he cannot say if it is for breaking up her parent's marriage or merely a professional rivalry. Holmes replies that he also found Ellaine suspicious, as she had initially positioned herself in front of the window with her face in shadow, making it difficult to read her expressions. However, Watson chides him for simply not understanding women: Ellaline had in fact been trying to hide the fact that she hadn't had the chance to apply makeup.

Nevertheless, Holmes determines that teasing out the true relationships between the parties is critical to solving the case, and decides to next interview Richard Prince, the actor whom Terriss had been assisting. They find him living in poverty, though he welcomes them in warmly, being a reader of Watson's stories. Prince shows them a collection of letters from famous people with whom he has corresponded, among them William Terriss. Holmes notes that most of the letters are requests for money, which Prince admits while insisting their friendship had evolved beyond that. He says that Terriss had seen something of himself in Prince. When Holmes asks him if Terriss had any enemies who would have wanted him dead, he replies with only one name.

Holmes and Watson return to Mrs Terriss, where Holmes bluffs her into agreeing to meet him. Holmes informs her that he believes all of Jessie Millward's claims - of the mutual hatred between Terriss and Hicks and his love for Jessie - to be completely fabricated. Mrs Terriss agrees, calling Millward a compulsive liar with an delusional and obsessive - but one sided - infatuation with her late husband. Terriss tried his best to dissuade her, but it only made Millward jealous, and as a result she began spreading rumours about Terriss and his family soon afterwards. She also reveals that her daughter had been married for at least two years, and that the family was overjoyed by her pregnancy. In her view, the only person who hated Terriss was Jessie Millward.

Holmes and Watson confront Millward, who is unapologetic about her lies. She admits to wanting to hurt Terriss and his family as revenge for spurning her advances. However, she denies killing Terriss, stating that she loved him too much. She had implicated Hicks out of pure spite. Though Watson is unconvinced, Holmes has a suddent jolt of inspiration and returns to the Actor's Benevolent Society to determine the date of their last committee meeting.

They rush to Prince's house, but finding it empty hurry to the Adelphi Theater, where they find Prince in Terriss' old dressing room. Holmes announces he has solved the case, having previously overlooked one vital clue: the timing of the murder. Holmes reveals that the last meeting of the Benevolent Society, the board had voted to end Prince's allowance, with the chairman casting the deciding vote. When Prince learned that the chairman was Terriss, he felt betrayed by a man he had idolized and loved, and considered a close personal friend. Prince had stabbed Terriss in a rage, but afterwards, unable to bear the mental strain of having killed his hero, blocked the memory from his mind. Prince still denies that he killed Terriss, but breaks down when Holmes tells him that he had killed him for nothing; the chairman at the meeting had been "one of the Terrys", which Prince had misheard as Terriss.

Afterwards Holmes notes two ironies about the case. First, recalling that Terriss had his hand in his pocket, he notes that he was likely about to give Prince the money he needed when he was stabbed; and that secondly, Terriss' murder has fulfilled Prince's dream of being the most famous actor in England.

Cast[]

Trivia[]

  • The case was inspired by a reference in "The Adventure of the Second Stain": "You must have observed, Watson, how she manoeuvred to have the light at her back. She did not wish us to read her expression...You remember the woman at Margate whom I suspected for the same reason. No powder on her nose—that proved to be the correct solution."
  • The plot is a fictionalized version of the real-life murder of William Terriss by Richard Prince on December 16, 1897. It is one of the few Sherlock Holmes pastiches to showcase the detectives solving an actual historical crime.
  • The opening of the drama is a condensed excerpt of the end of The Secret Service, a melodrama by the American playwright William Gillette. Terriss was portraying the play’s lead at the time of his death. Gillette, its author, achieved his most lasting fame by portraying Sherlock Holmes on stage for several decades, and substantially shaped popular perception of the character; he also wrote a number of original Holmes pastiche plays.
  • Among Richard Prince's corespondents in the episode are the future King George V and the actors Sir Henry Irving and Dame Ellen Terry (sister of Charles and Fred Terry, whose are also mentioned in the episode). He also mentions the canon character Lord Backwater, who appears in person in the 2009 episode The Thirteen Watches.
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