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"The Striking Success of Miss Franny Blossom" is the fifth and last episode of Series 2 of the BBC Radio 4 series The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, written by Bert Coules. It was first broadcast on June 15, 2004. In it, the discovery of a body in Hyde Park reunites the sleuth with a notorious former client.

Plot[]

Harold Upwood, a dissolute young gambler, is in trouble. He has wracked up a debt of £2,000 to the Nonpareil Club, and has received a threatening note from the club's manager, Albert Catterall. It demands he bring the full amount, alone, to Hyde Park that night. He asks his father, Colonel George Upwood, to loan him the money, which he reluctantly agrees to do. Colonel Upwood senses something strange and tries to accompany him to the drop, but Harold insists on going alone.

The following morning, Harold's body is found in the Serpentine. Inspector Lestrade informs the colonel of his son's death, and asks him to identify the body. Harold has had his throat cut, and an ace of spades from the Nonpareil shoved into the wound. Based on the evidence the colonel provides, Lestrade visits the Nonpareil Club, but he does not find Catterall there. He is instead met by Francesca Ricoletti, the club's owner. Lestrade indicates he is familiar with her sordid past. She responds that whatever her past was, she now runs a legitimate business, with a very exclusive clientele. She warns him to tread cautiously.

Meanwhile, the police are summoned to Colonel Upwood's home, where they find Upwood injured and Catterall dead. The colonel explains to Lestrade that Catterall approached him to demand payment for Harold's debts. When the colonel accused Catterall of murdering his son and taking the money, Catterall pulled a knife, and Upwood killed him in the ensuing struggle.

Holmes and Watson are approached by a stranger as they leave the symphony, who informs them that Mrs Ricoletti wants to see them. She denies that Catterall killed Harold or had anything to do with the meeting in Hyde Park, saying he had been with her the entire night. She also denies that he went to Colonel Upwood's to threaten him; instead, she suggests Upwood lured him there to kill him, so he couldn't prove his innocence in Harold's murder. While she is unable to denounce Upwood herself because of his position and her lack of proof, but she hopes Holmes will be able to. Nevertheless, as she leaves she warns Holmes that if he fails she had other methods available to resolve the case.

After Mrs Ricoletti's departure, Holmes recounts his history with her to Watson - he had once helped her late husband, Alberto. He reveals that Francesca's real name is Franny Blossom, and that she had been an unsuccessful actress. She married Ricoletti after his first wife, who had been attempting to kill him for his money, left him in search of an easier target (and eventually succeeded). While Francesca did not initially love Ricoletti, the two found surprising success in their marriage - and in their subsequent criminal career. Watson is shocked that Holmes would work for a criminal, but Holmes insists that Mrs Ricoletti has reformed since the death of her husband several years ago.

Holmes and Watson go to visit Inspector Lestrade, who warns them against working for Mrs Ricoletti. He shows Holmes another ace of spades that was found in Catterall's pocket, identical to the one found in Harold Upwood's throat. Lestrade informs them that he considers it an open-and-shut case, and is now only interested in determining if Catterall was working alone, or on Mrs Ricoletti's orders.

Holmes and Watson visit Colonel Upwood. While they wait for him, Watson tells Holmes that his inquires show that Colonel Upwood had an outstanding service record, but was taken off active duty due to his health. Holmes starts off the interview by bluntly asking Upwood if he killed Catterall; the colonel denies it, but says he would have if given the chance. Upwood also says that he is certain Catterall killed Harold, though he did not know him personally. He asks if Catterall had a living father, and expresses a desire to send him condolences.

Holmes and Watson go to the bridge where the Harold was killed, but too many people have been through for Holmes to read anything. As he and Watson rest at a cafe afterwards, Holmes tells Watson he didn't get much from Upwood's study either, as the room had been thoroughly cleaned. However, he saw something quite interesting through the window. He says the next step will be to get a sample of Catterall's handwriting, to compare against the card he is alleged to have sent. In the meantime, he asks Watson to visit the morgue to read the postmortems on Catterall and Harold Upwood.

At the Nonpareil Club, Holmes meets with Mrs Ricoletti. She informs him that Lestade visited her again, as he is convinced that Catterall was working on her orders. She admits that while she didn't order Harold Upwood's killing, she did have motive to want him dead, and told Lestrade as much. Harold believed that the games at the Nonpareil Club were fixed, and had threatened to spread that opinion. Regardless of the truth of the accusations, the rumors would have ruined her.

Holmes meets with Lestrade to review the message from Catterall. Lestrade tells him the card was sent from the district messenger office in Piccadilly, which Catterall regularly used. Holmes tells Lestrade that the letter is a clear forgery. He follows up at the district messenger office, where he learns the letter was turned in by a man in a heavy coat who told them it had been dropped by the girl from the Nonpareil Club.

Watson, meanwhile, is rebuffed at the morgue: Lestrade has declared the autopsy reports confidential. However, he is able to learn something by investigating the bodies. It is likely that both men were killed by the same knife. And while Catterall's wound was consistent with an accidental stab, his body showed no signs of a fight.

Back at the Nonpareil Club, Holmes asks Mrs Ricoletti to point out Upwood's army friends. Watson interviews them while Holmes shares a quiet moment with Mrs Ricoletti. Watson learns that Upwood has been dropping hints of an immenent appointment to an honorary position affiliated with the royal family, which would give him substation financial and social benefit. A vital clue falls into place when Holmes learns that Harold was not in fact Upwood's biological son, but his stepson from his second marriage. However, Holmes admits they have no proof of Upwood's guilt. He tells Watson that he will need his help later that night.

Upwood receives a message from a beggar woman, who implies that she witnessed Harold's murder. Upwood seeks out the beggar and draws a knife on her, but is he is ambushed and kidnapped by Mrs Ricoletti and an assistant.

Holmes and Watson return to Baker Street after breaking into Upwood's house. Watson is surprised to find Mrs Ricoletti there, along with a bound and gagged Upwood. Holmes reveals that he discovered several objects buried in Upwood's garden, including a large coat, a note in Catterall's hand, and two decks of cards with missing aces. Upwood, defeated, confesses and bitterly congratulates Holmes on his success.

Lestrade thanks Holmes for helping him, and Holmes convinces him to apologize to Mrs Ricoletti, which she graciously accepts. She thanks Holmes for solving the case, but Holmes tells he could never have proved Upwood buried the sack, and that her participation was quite valuable. Mrs Ricoletti asks Holmes to keep in touch.

Cast[]

Trivia[]

  • The case was inspired by two separate canon references. In The Hound of the Baskervilles, Watson mentions that "Since the tragic upshot of our visit to Devonshire he had been engaged in two affairs of the utmost importance, in the first of which he had exposed the atrocious conduct of Colonel Upwood in connection with the famous card scandal of the Nonpareil Club..." The Ricolettis are from "The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual", where among several case notes Holmes mentions from his pre-Watson days are "a full account of Ricoletti of the club-foot, and his abominable wife."
  • Holmes's fondness for Wagner is mentioned in "The Adventure of the Red Circle", when he invites Watson to a Wagner concert at Covent Garden. He also expresses a preference for German music in "The Adventure of the Red-Headed League".
  • The ending song is "When a felon's not engaged in his employment", from Gilbert & Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance.
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