Over the last three years, the maestros at Big Finish have brought us one of the best Dark Shadows spinoff’s, The Tony and Cassandra Mysteries featuring Jerry Lacy and Lara Parker as Tony and Cassandra.
With Big Finish promising some exciting Dark Shadows releases over the next few years, it’s time to say goodbye to Tony and Cassandra and the third series wraps up their story wonderfully.
The Mystery of the Grandest Order by Aaron Lamont
The final set has the tough job of wrapping up the story from the previous set, The Mystery of the Soulmates Hotel. Tony, Cassandra and their secretary Alice find themselves on the run from assassins determined to retrieve an old piece of information. Information that could change the world. But there is a further problem. Alice is pregnant and she’s just gone into labour.
Lamont opens the set brilliantly, not only wrapping up the previous set, but also providing another mystery. Much like Soulmates Hotel, this story feels less like a supernatural piece and has much more in common with a conspiracy or a thriller adventure. The group are never sure who they can trust. Lamont makes sure to keep the listener on their toes, and allows us to experience us the story and its twists and turns just as the characters do. It was a great experience.
Jerry Lacy and Lara Parker have given us some tremendous performances but they are on particularly good form here. Brilliant as a duo, both in serious and comedic moments, they also work particularly well with Sydney Aldridge as Alice. Of course, this is a bit of a light-hearted set so nothing too serious was going to happen to Alice but Lamont’s writing and Aldridge’s performance made sure we were on tender-hooks nevertheless.
Lamont also introduces us to the likeable Mari, an old friend of Cassandra’s, who will come into play later. Speaking of Cassandra, Lamont also plants a few seeds of distrust between her and Tony. Cassandra was once a powerful witch and these sets have given her something of a redemption arc. But this story tests her resolve and we see how far she is willing to go to save her friends.
The Mystery of the Fisherman’s Wife by Jessica Smith
While The Mystery of the Grandest Order went to great lengths to bring Tony and Cassandra closer, then The Mystery of the Fisherman’s Wife sees the seeds of distrust wedged even harder between the pair.
Jessica Smith has written a story where, on the surface, there seems to be a fishing town with secrets. But as the runtime rushes along, what we actually get is something darker and a very mature theme is explored. I’s quite a heavy topic and if its not tackled right then it risks undermining what you are trying to say. Luckily though Smith manages to balance the storylines just right and what we get is another entertaining episode where there are no real baddies but no goodies either.
Smith makes it hard not to side with Cassandra, as the story does put a lot of emphasis on her background. Again, Smith handles this just right, giving seasoned listeners and fans of the television series proper enough of a refresher while newcomers can get the grasp of what she went through in the past. The story focuses around old Gaelic myths about creatures called ‘Seal Wives’. Smith adds a few more layers to that ancient myth and crafts a very thought provoking story around it about the nature of love and hate, crimes or injustice, revenge or rightful actions. This is a story that’ll have you thinking for hours after the conclusion.
The Mystery of a Mother’s Love by William Proudler
The third story is certainly the strangest and most disturbing! Over the previous two sets the third story featured the number 493 somewhere in the plot. Here though, the producers have gone for something incredibly different and it really worked well. While it might be one of the strangest hours of audio you’ve ever heard, it is well worth a listen as it is a dark and rewarding story.
The trope of a creepy child has been well worn in the horror genre. With many creepy-kid stories out there, one would wonder whether there was a fresh way of using that trope. Well, Proudler has found one. Instead of using the child as the glue to hold the story together, why not use the mother. This story sees Alice getting a lot more audio-time, even if this proves to be her final outing in the series. But it’s a great way to wrap up her storyline. What really makes this story work however is the character of Sonia Finch, a woman so desperate for a child she has resorted to digging up bodies and making pacts with demonic creatures to get one. But she has clearly bitten off more than she can chew here.
The story takes a bizarre turn but Proudler makes sure that the surreal feeling still remains grounded in reality. His use of Alice in particular was inspired, allowing her to be the one who works it out making sure that Sydney Aldridge gets a great final hurrah.
The Mystery of a Mother’s Love was a fun way to spend an hour. Proudler makes sure to keep things grounded yet strange and hopefully, he’ll be returning at some point to write more stories for Big Finish!
The Mystery of the Jack-in-the-Box by Zara Symes
The final story of the set and indeed the range, is The Mystery of the Jack-in-the-Box, written by Zara Symes. What a way for the range to go out on! What begins like another ordinary haunted-house mystery quickly becomes something altogether different. With plenty of twists and turns, none of which you’ll see coming, there is plenty to enjoy here.
Mari hires Tony and Cassandra to help her investigate some strange goings on at a nearby orphanage. After attending the circus one of the children is now acting strangely, hurting his friends and the adults. Symes makes sure that Tony and Cassandra are tested like never before as their friendship and friendships with others are tested in the extreme.
Dan Starkey was an excellent inclusion over the course of this set, playing a number of villainous characters but his performance here as The Toymaker was something else. Possibly though, this might be his other greatest Big Finish performance. You know something isn’t quite right as they enter his workshop but nothing will prepare you for the twists Symes throws up in short-succession. Starkey and the cast rise to the occasion brilliantly and the script from Symes wraps up The Tony and Cassandra Mysteries nicely.
What a ride The Tony and Cassandra Mysteries have been!
Dark Shadows has always been a strong range from Big Finish with plenty to enjoy, the darker nature of the series allowed for darker storytelling and they’ve created some very compelling storylines over the course of the last three series and these are stories that’ll stick with you for sometime afterwards. Series 3 brings the set to a close brilliantly, implying the romantic pairing of Tony and Cassandra that fans and listeners have been asking for and leading into further exciting Dark Shadows releases.
While Big Finish have promised some exciting new things from the range, including the release of Windcliffe, a new series due for release next year, The Tony and Cassandra Mysteries will always be one of the strongest ranges Big Finish have ever produced, helped in no small part to strong script writing from all involved, a clear love for the material from the producer Joseph Lidster and the plethora of directors who have worked on the range and the dynamic chemistry between the leads, Jerry Lacy and Lara Parker.
The Tony and Cassandra Mysteries – Series 3
She’s a witch. He’s a private detective. And when they get together, it’s magic…
The private detective and the witch are back investigating four new exciting mysteries:
3.1 The Mystery of the Grandest Order by Aaron Lamont
When Professor P Stone is shot dead in their office, Tony and Cassandra find themselves on the run. A ruthless assassin is on their tail, and it seems he’ll stop at nothing to get hold of the Professor’s research.
Just who is their mysterious assailant? What dangerous secret has the Professor uncovered? And why did it mean he had to end up dead? But perhaps the biggest mystery of them all is… Will they get their secretary to hospital in time?
Because Alice has just gone into labour. For Tony and Cassandra, some days just go from bad to worse…
3.2 The Mystery of the Fisherman’s Wife by Jessica Smith
It’s not unusual in the mystery-solving business for a client not to want to give you any extra information about their lives; even if it’s to help you solve the case. But when a shabby woman with a wad of cash asks Tony and Cassandra to purchase an artefact – in secret – and refuses to tell them what it is or what she wants it for, that lack of information could lead to her own murder…
In the sleepy town of Bar Harbour, finding out what is at the heart of their morally-ambiguous client’s story will be the key to fulfilling their contract. But then sometimes, it might be better not to know, because when Tony and Cassandra figure out what is really going on, it’s going to put them in an impossible moral bind. And the choices they make now, could tear their happy partnership apart, forever…
3.3 The Mystery of a Mother’s Love by William Proudler
After the death of her grandmother, Alice’s had a lot of thinking to do. She wants to be a detective, too. When Howard Finch storms into Tony and Cassandra’s office, insisting they find his missing wife, Alice can’t help but tag along.
What seems at first like an open and shut case, soon takes a sinister turn, as Alice finds herself confronted with something she’s tried so hard to forget. Some things should be left alone, some things should never be found.
3.4 The Mystery of the Jack-in-the-Box by Zara Symes
If there is one thing that Tony and Cassandra have learned during their time working together it’s that even the most innocent of objects can hide the most hideous of evils. But, when their gypsy friend Mari returns with a supposedly possessed Jack-in-the-Box even our seasoned detecting duo are taken aback. With more than one innocent life at risk, Tony and Cassandra must face staggering and uncanny dangers to protect those they care about, but this may just be one mystery that Tony and Cassandra cannot escape unscathed…
- Lara Parker (Cassandra Collins)
- Jerry Lacy (Tony Peterson)
- Sydney Aldridge (Alice Wilkes)
- Alan Flanagan (Compère / Television Announcer)
- Adam Hall (Professor Philip Stone / Waiter / Officer Hubert / Christoph / Circus Hawker / Workman)
- Zehra Jane Naqvi (Piper Daly / Mari / The Old Mother)
- Sarah Pitard (Tanya Golding / Rona Anderson / Sonia Finch / The Boy / Laura / Sophie / Edith / Elsa McKailey)
- Eva Pope (Briar Stevenson)
- Dan Starkey (Mr Mason / Tour Guide / Cab Driver / Thomas Anderson / Howard Finch / Eddie / The Toymaker)