Admittedly this isn’t one of my favourite Famous Five books. Which is odd as I love the tale of the Bartles. Some combination of all the horses, moors and gypsies just don’t do it for me. I don’t hate it it’s just one of my lower-ranked titles. Before I listened I had the thought that Sniffer could turn out to be an unpleasant character to hear on a CD.
The casts change a lot for these recordings and this group are not my favourites apart from Anne. It’s not necessarily that these actors are bad they are just different and not what I’m used to. Anne’s the same actress, the best one in my opinion, but George, Julian and Dick are definitely played by different people. On saying that George does do a very good going-off-in-a-huff sound in this story.
I do love Julian but he sounds terribly pompous and bossy in this one, even to me!
The additional voices are generally provided by only two or three people but as usual they create a wide range of accents and classes to act out all the different parts. Sniffer is given a fair bit of attitude – perhaps more than I’ve noticed in the book – and what sounds like a Cockney accent but it works.
Captain and Mrs Johnson sound very well-to-do, Mrs Johnson even more so than her husband. She sounds more like a very wealthy woman who spends her time at parties than a down-to-earth riding stable owner, but she manages to be kind at the same time.
Henry doesn’t sound too much like a boy to me, but then neither does George that much. It’s not really a problem though as neither are overly girly and they do sound suitably different from each other.
We also get to hear Sniffer’s dad, Ben the blacksmith and lots of nice horsey noises as well as some plane sounds. Sniffer doesn’t do that much sniffing in the first half of the story but later on, particularly in the caves, he does! As I suspected it is rather unpleasant really. Obviously they can’t fit everything into the audio but George’s attempts to make him use a hanky get missed out.
Unlike the books this doesn’t seem to be so heavily updated. Sniffer still tells the Five how his father cuffed him and knocked him over, and the father makes threats to him later.
I did like listening to this one, even if it’s not a favourite. Even the worst Five book is still a half-decent one.