Unlike the rest of humanity, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle appears to dislike his creation Sherlock Holmes.
But the fact the dour Scottish author created every tic and foible of the world’s favourite consulting detective gives rise to an inevitable behavioural crossover (or so ITV hopes).
Sir Arthur is adept at the deductive observation and at one point hankers after a false beard. He takes a Hansom cab – more by necessity than tribute – and has his own amenable sidekick in faithful secretary Woodie (Charles Edwards).
We find Sir Arthur inhabiting the TV-friendly form of Martin Clunes (with inconsistent Scottish accent and consistently robust moustache) mourning the death of his wife and nursing a guilt about his unconsummated adultery with lady friend Jean (Hattie Morahan).
Weighed down by these twin burdens, he wanders about the house as stiff as his collars, cloth-eared to the siren call of the infernal Holmes bellowing from the bottom of the Reichenbach Falls.
“You need to sink your teeth into something,” says old Mam echoing the tumultuous cry of an audience done with the elaborate pre-amble.
His teeth find purchase in the rather particular story of young lawyer George Edaji, the son of Shapurji (Art Malik), the first person from South Asia to be made the vicar of an English parish (this is a true story). Race is an issue, thinks Sir Arthur, alone with the notion at this stage.
Horses had been mutilated and children would have been next according to the court case that ultimately sent the Wyrley Ripper to prison for three years.
As Sir Arthur joins the cause Edalji is out of jail and looking to clear his name and resume his low-key legal career. George (Arsher Ali) is more Sherlock than Sir Arthur. He is curiously dislocated from his plight and incurious about its origins.
In this way, he models the audience, for although horse mutilation, poison pen letters left in milk churns and skulking characters in the shadows have all the hallmarks of a classic three-piper, this adaptation from Julian Barnes’ fine novel is as flat as the arches of PC Plod.