Sherlock returned to the screens this evening for a very welcome second series with A Scandal in Belgravia. The title is, of course, a play on the title of the first Holmes short story, 'A Scandal in Bohemia', but I wonder if the scriptwriter, Steven Moffat, is aware that it is also the title of a very good book by Robert Barnard? In fact, it might just be my favourite of Bob Barnard's many entertaining novels.
Back to Sherlock. Benedict Cumberbatch is splendidly cast as the great detective brought up to date for the 21st century, while Martin Freeman is a likeable Watson. If you buy into the basic concept - and I do - then there's much to enjoy in these shows, given that the scriptwriters have a real feel for detective fiction and an evident respect for Conan Doyle's achievements. Moffat has also done great work on Doctor Who, but there's a danger, as one or two episodes of Doctor Who have shown in the last couple of years, that the demands of filling an extended time slot can lead to some narrative padding. Happily, that wasn't a problem in this episode, even though it lasted for 90 minutes. It was very well crafted.
There were plenty of witty lines (I enjoyed "The Geek Interpreter", for instance), but the story was also strong, with seemingly random jokes at the start of the story turning out to form a part of quite an intricate plot which avoided tedious over-elaboration. It involved Irene Adler as a dominatrix, in possession of compromising material kept on her mobile phone. Sherlock got hold of the phone - but what was the password to unlock it? The solution to this particular puzzle was very neat.
The supporting cast was strong. Mrs Hudson is given a distinctive personality by Una Stubbs, while Mycroft Holmes is played in suitably aloof fashion by Mark Gatiss, co-creator of this series, and a succesful detective novelist himself (I haven't read his books yet, but this is a gap in my reading I must fill). And Lara Pulver was suitably glamorous as Irene Adler. You could see why Sherlock thought she was the woman.