Review: The Brenda and Effie Mysteries – Bat Out of Hull

Brenda and Effie - Bat Out Of HullIt’s time for the return of superstar guest reviewer Jonathan Dennis who once again has enabled me to avoid insanity by taking on some of my workload. This time, following his triumphant success at reviewing the first Brenda and Effie Mystery, The Woman In A Black Beehive, he’s turned his attention to the second part, Bat Out of Hull.

I’ll hand over to Jonathan after the jump, but first, a synopsis!

Welcome back to Whitby! Come and join Brenda and Effie for a night out at the Christmas Hotel, where a once-famous ventriloquist delights in causing chaos and putting the willies up old women.

Why does long-eared bat puppet Tolstoy seem eerily alive of his own accord? Why is Brenda walking about the harbour at night in only her night-things? And what is the secret of the olde-worlde toyshop tucked up an alley in Robin Hood’s Bay?

There is strangeness occurring at the seaside, and our heroines will be forced, once more, to beat off the forces of darkness before this night is through.

Anne Reid (Last Tango in Halifax, Dinnerladies) stars in episode 2 of The Brenda and Effie Mysteries. You can buy each release individually, or subscribe to the whole series. Subscribers will also receive a digital copy of Vince Cosmos: Glam Rock Detective by Paul Magrs, plus an exclusive Brenda and Effie art print by artist Paul Hanley.

Is it any good?
For me, the key to audio drama is in the words. Yes, there are performances to consider, along with music and sound effects, but if the writing isn’t there the whole thing is built in quicksand.

Fortunately, Paul Magrs is a very good writer. In just the simple terms of putting together an interesting sentence, in using the language to add detail, texture and rhythm, I would say he’s one of the best.

You can tell from listening to the audio that I’m not the only one who thinks this. Anne Reid’s enjoyment at delivering each rolling, bouncing line is clearly audible. She gets some of the finest adjective/noun pairings in audio drama (ex. unholy toyshop, dark furry master, and tenebrous fingers).

This second installment of the audios based on Magrs’ Brenda and Effie books fills in more of Brenda’s back story, finally breaking down and using the “F” word (Frankenstein) to describe her. And now that we have two installments, it’s clear that there may well be a running theme to them, men’s desire to control women and the continuing battle women have to fight to remain free of that control. It’s a welcome break from the themes that dominate the more reactionary regions of SF and Fantasy that have been flaring up of late.

Highly recommended. I look forward to the third.

One play: £6.99
Series subscription: £25

Anne Reid
Chris Pavlo as Barry Lurcher
Alex Lowe as Tolstoy the Long-Eared Bat and Mr Grenoble

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