When my husband and I started watching this British, early 1970s mystery series, we didn’t know that each episode is actually based on a real written mystery. (Be sure to watch the opening credits so that you know who the author and main sleuth are.) The mysteries were written at the same time Sir Conan Doyle was spinning his mysteries – featuring Sherlock Holmes. Thus, the name: The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes. (I should add that Sir Hugh Greene published The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes, which includes 13 of these cases.)
The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes does not attempt to “sanitize” Victorian London. There are rats in the prison, pick-pockets on the streets, and murder in even the aristocratic parlors. As with Sir Conan Doyle’s mysteries, the private investigators had to step in to solve some of the crimes of the days.
There are thirteen episodes in the first ITV season and thirteen in the second season. If you are a fan of British television you will no doubt recognize many familiar faces. (Three who I can remember right off the top of my head are Derek Jacobi, Donald Pleasence and a very young Jeremy Irons.)
When I write reviews of older shows/movies I enjoy, I feel like I have to “forewarn” people not to expect the slick, glossy Hollywood productions with green-screen special effects, or the CSI-type of beyond-incredible forensic clues. Do not expect one of these private investigators to be able to pick up a single 1/2″ strand of navy blue wool and be able to identify which home in all of London has an afghan in the master bedroom that matches this. These mystery-solvers use their brain power (as Sherlock Holmes did) in order to identify the who, what, where, and why.
If you’re in the mood for a good British 1970s mystery series that pays attention to detail and has nice sets and wardrobe, not to mention good acting, you might enjoy The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes.
P.S. It is available on Netflix.