Chances are you’re more likely to have heard of Thomas Carnacki through his appearances in other people’s works than to have read the stories originally written featuring him by William Hope Hodgson. He’s turned up in Andrew Cartmel’s Telos novella; in one of Guy Adams’ Sherlock Holmes novels for Titan; and featured heavily in Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. But these original six short stories establish the character clearly and it’s a shame that they’re not better known.
Dan Starkey has become one of the stalwarts of the Big Finish repertory company, providing voices far beyond those of the Sontaran Strax, and he’s in his element in these stories. It helps that Hodgson’s text basically introduces the character as someone who regales his friends with an after-dinner tale of spookery and skulduggery, which lends itself to be adapted in this way. Not all of the events with which Carnacki becomes involved are supernatural in origin – although the first one most definitely is – and part of the fun is finding out, as he does, exactly what’s going on.
Ioan Morris & Rhys Downin’s underscore helps to maintain the mood that director Scott Handcock establishes with aid from Neil Gardner and Tanja Glittenberg’s unobtrusive but effective sound design – Carnacki may be dealing with things beyond this earth, but there’s no place for over the top melodramatics against the text. The stories are over a century old but retain their power, despite the many changes in vocabulary that have occurred during that time – Starkey ensures that this clubland hero has the right vocal mannerisms that make lines that would be uncomfortable if written for a 2016 character feel perfectly natural.
This has been released in the Big Finish Classic range, which would suggest that new adventures are unlikely – but it would be rather interesting to hear Carnacki alongside some of the company’s other heroes…
Verdict: A well-produced retelling of these spooky tales. 8/10