The second of these audio mysteries is once again great fun, with Paul Magrs having to perform a few narrative tricks to ensure that some secrets remain hidden from those that can’t know them yet, since presumably they’re revealed in the books. For those who don’t know the series of novels, Brenda’s true identity – or at least some very clear pointers to it – are given here, and with hindsight, explain some of the sequences in the first story that seemed odd at the time.
Anne Reid provides a strong performance, giving the two title characters very distinct voices and styles, and, for Brenda, allowing us to see the self-awareness that two hundred years of living produces. Just as she has to prepare her wig and her make-up before she faces the world, Brenda has to adopt certain attitudes, and because the story is narrated by her, every so often her internal mask slips and we see the pain beneath. Chris Pavlo and Alex Lowe provide excellent support as the assorted guest characters, while director Simon Barnard never lets the pace flag.
The story covers territory that to an extent has also been mined by James Goss for the Scorchies plays for Big Finish, as well as characters like Mr. Sin in Doctor Who’s The Talons of Weng-Chiang, but because of Brenda’s nature, there’s a darker element to it. That shading keeps this from becoming too much like an audio version of the climax of Goodies Rule – OK! (although a giant Dougal on the hunt is still something that would enliven most plays!).
Verdict: That’s the way to do it! 8/10