RogerBW's Blog

Who Is Aldrich Kemp? 19 March 2022

2022 spy-jinks audio drama by Julian Simpson. Clara Page is an agent set to track down the Themis Group, a criminal conspiracy so powerful nobody's even heard of it.

Although it's set in the modern day, this is very much in the 1960s spy-fi tradition: not so much James Bond, but perhaps in the halo that grew up in reaction to it. The theme tune recalls The IPCRESS File and The Avengers, and the spirit of fun that was a core part of the latter is very much a theme here. When preparing explosives:

You're asking me to empty out bottles of Chateau d'Yquem?

I took the liberty of selecting the poorer vintages, sir.

The format of five half-hour episodes leaves things feeling quite cramped: there's a beginning and an ending, of sorts, but it's clear that many things have happened before the tape started to roll and many more will happen afterwards. A change of location may be summed up in one line. But it's the larger scaffolding that suffers, and that can mostly be remedied by attentive listening; the individual scenes work very well.

There are also strong connections to earlier Simpson material, particularly The Lovecraft Investigations; I think a new listener would not be completely lost, and in any case Simpson resists the temptation to explain too much. Certainly there are ongoing themes of the untrustworthiness of memory (but then what do you use instead?), but a villainous monologue is talked over by the good guys deciding what to do next, and that's worth many points in itself.

Available, at least for the moment, on BBC Sounds.

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