The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes – The Ripening Rubies


Robert Lang as Bernard Sutton in The Ripening Rubies by Max Pemberton
Adapted by Anthony Skene.  Directed by Alan Cooke

When an ex-con called Jaffe (Ron Pember) attempts to sell a valuable ruby necklace, he makes the mistake of taking it to Bernard Sutton (Robert Lang).  Sutton was the jeweler who made the necklace in the first place and he’s well aware that it was recently stolen from Lady Faber (Lally Bowers).

Jaffe insists he didn’t steal the necklace – he bought it from a Dutch sea captain with a wooden leg.  It seems an implausible story, but that’s only part of the problem.  London society has been gripped by a wave of jewel robberies recently – and this is the first piece to have been recovered.

Sutton returns it to Lady Faber and she insists that he attend the grand ball she’s throwing that evening.  Everybody who is is anybody in polite society will be there – and it seems certain that the thief will strike again.  Sutton tries to demur, insisting that he’s a jeweler and not a detective, but Lady Faber is used to having her own way and reluctantly Sutton agrees.

The Ripening Rubies was written by Max Pemberton and was one of ten short stories featuring Bernard Sutton that were published in the book Jewel Mysteries: From a Dealer’s Notebook in 1894. It can be read here.

As Sutton says, he’s not a detective and can’t claim to have any special knowledge of crime or criminals.  However, in Pemberton’s short story of The Ripening Rubies he does explain a little about what motivates him.

I have said often, in jotting down from my book a few of the most interesting cases which have come to my notice, that I am no detective, nor do I pretend to the smallest gift of foresight above my fellow man. Whenever I have busied myself about some trouble it has been from a personal motive which drove me on, or in the hope of serving some one who henceforth should serve me. And never have I brought to my aid other weapon than a certain measure of common sense. In many instances the purest good chance has given to me my only clue; the merest accident has set me straight when a hundred roads lay before me.

Robert Lang gives a steadfast performance as Sutton.  He’s quite prepared to pull a gun on Jaffe to stop him leaving his shop and at the end of the story he confronts the gang with steely determination.  It’s interesting that Inspector Illingworth (Windsor Davies) seems to suspect that Sutton himself has a hand in the robberies.  Given some of the corrupt detectives we’ve seen in the series, that wouldn’t have come as a surprise – but Sutton proves to be totally honest.

Since the identity of the villains isn’t much of a shock, it’s fair to say that the majority of the pleasure in this one comes from the journey, rather than the destination.  Lally Bowers is good fun as the autocratic Lady Faber and Richard Hurndall is his usual dependable self as Lord Faber.

Moira Redmond as the charming Mrs Kavanagh catches Sutton’s eye at the party.  She has an impressive collection of jewels, which Sutton takes a keen interest in, and her witty byplay helps to keep up the momentum in the middle of the story.  She’s not all she seems though – and events come to a head to provide a suitably dramatic finale.

There’s a terrible use of CSO right at the start (the background behind Sutton’s shop is CSO, but it stays static as the camera zooms in on the real shopfront – it’s astonishingly inept) but that apart, this is a pretty decent story with Robert Lang and Moria Redmond both on top form.

Next Episode – The Case of Laker, Absconded

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