Review: The Brenda and Effie Mysteries – The Woman in a Black Beehive

cover.jpgHello all. Well I may have been a lazy boy over the Christmas period, but that doesn’t mean everyone else has been one, too.

In fact, kind soul, philanthropist and all round nice guy Jonathan Dennis has been doing my work for me, reviewing the latest Bafflegab production: The Brenda and Effie Mysteries – The Woman In A Black Beehive. Bless him.

Bafflegab, of course, are responsible for the likes of the Hammer Chillers and the Vince Cosmos series, and The Woman In a Black Beehive represents the first of a series of Brenda and Effie mysteries, all written by the brilliant Paul Magrs as extensions of his original novel series.

For those who want to know more, here’s the synopsis, and you can read Jonathan’s review after the jump.

Welcome to the mysterious town of Whitby, where all the monsters and demons of old come to retire and live out the remainder of their spooky days and nights and eat fish and chips on the Seafront.

There’s a strange new landlady in town, opening a B&B by the harbour; a lady with a tall black beehive, nasty scars about her person and a very chequered past. Soon she’s teamed up with part-time witch Effie and together they investigate the mystery of the ghostly singing cat on the rooftops of the old town, and the savage maulings of old ladies in lonely alleyways. Also – there’s something very peculiar about the quite frankly awful oil painting Effie drags home from an auction. Can it really be coming to ghastly life?

Here we are at the very start: about to hear the truth of what happened when Brenda met Effie and hell was unleashed in Whitby for the very first time..!

Paul Magrs’ macabre creations are brought to life by Anne Reid (Last Tango in Halifax) in episode 1 of The Brenda and Effie Mysteries. You can buy each release individually, or subscribe to the whole series. Subscribers will also receive a copy of Vince Cosmos: Glam Rock Detective by Paul Magrs, plus other subscriber bonuses.

Is it any good?
We live in a culture full of remixes, reboots, re-imaginings, and sequels. Amidst all that, The Adventures of Brenda and Effie novel series sets itself apart from the pack by taking their own path. Beginning in 2006 with Enter the Bride and continuing for five more novels through 2012’s Brenda and Effie Forever, they were unique and interesting. While the trend is to revive childhood memories in steadily darker and darker incarnations, Paul Magrs drags the darkness of Mary Shelley’s Bride of Frankenstein and other Gothic-ish tales of the occult into a more, well, comfortable setting.

After Brenda and Effie Forever, I thought it a shame that we had seen the last of these characters, but the first episode of Bafflegab Productions’ audios is a wonderful continuation, even if it is that most dreaded word in SF/Fantasy fiction, a prequel.

The Woman in the Black Beehive tells the story of how Brenda, the titular woman in a black beehive, arrives in Whitby, opens her bed and breakfast and, for the first time, meets her neighbour Effie, the witch next door. It doesn’t take long, despite Brenda’s desire to finally lead a quiet life, before they are on the first adventure involving burning cats with ten lives, haunted paintings and complicated family history.

The wit and affection that are the best qualities of Paul Magrs’s writing are here, coupled with excellent work from Anne Reid, who narrates the tale as Brenda. Additional voices are provided by Alex Lowe as Harold the Cat and Chris Pavlo as the Erl King. I eagerly await the next one. As should you.

One play: £6.99
Series subscription: £25

Anne Reid
Alex Lowe as Harold the cat
Chris Pavlo as the Erl King

Written: Paul Magrs
Producer and director: Simon Barnard
Music: Edwin Sykes
Post-production: Simon Robinson
Design and artwork: Stuart Manning
Recorded at Moat Studios, London