Sunday, May 4, 2014

Book Review: Holmes on the Range by Steven Hockensmith

Title: Holmes on the Range

Author: Steven Hockensmith
Series: Holmes on the Range #1
Publisher: Minotaur Books 
Source: Library; Recycled Books 
Adult, Mystery, Western

1893 is a tough year in Montana, and any job is a good job. When brothers Big Red and Old Red Amlingmeyer sign on as ranch hands at a secretive ranch, they’re not expecting much more than hard work, bad pay, and a few free moments to enjoy their favorite pastime: reading stories about Sherlock Holmes. When another hand turns up dead, Old Red sees the perfect opportunity to employ his Holmes-inspired “deducifyin’” skills and sets out to solve the case. Big Red, like it or not (and mostly he does not), is along for the wild ride in this clever, compelling, and completely one-of-a-kind mystery. (From GoodReads) 

I don't have the faintest idea why it took me so long to read this book. It's a western (which I love) and it's a mystery (which I love even more) and it's got a touch of Holmes (which I love the most) and it features a pair of detecting brothers, which always wins points with me. (I blame the Hardy Boys. And Simon & Simon.)

Holmes on the Range is told from Big Red's point of view. Also known as Otto, he's the younger, more educated brother of Old Red (Gustav) who is really not that old at all. They're the only family each other has left, so while they don't always see eye to eye, they stick with each other. So when Old Red lines up to take a job at the Bar VR ranch, Big Red begrudgingly gets in line with him. As they come to find out, this is precisely the moment things start to go terribly wrong.

This was a really fun read. It's got all the things you might expect from a western including cowboys, cattle (did you know such a thing as a cattalo existed?), a stampede, an outhouse, and interesting words like "deducifying". It's got everything you might expect from a mystery including a murder, make that more than one murder, sneaking about in the dark, mysterious gunshots, and plenty of red herrings. And a cannibal. Hockensmith infuses this romp with a healthy dose of humor. Some of the characters are a little bit canned, such as the maid and the pompous old Englishman, but you've also got some very clever plot twists and unexpected moments. There's also the Swedish chef, which had better be a Muppet reference, I'm just sayin'.

I adore both Gustav and Otto. I will admit that as a reader I had a little bit of a hard time connecting with Otto as the narrator. He spends most of his time observing Gustav observing the rest of the world, and he reminds the reader frequently that Gustav is the only family he has left. I guess I wanted more of him as a character. I also wanted more of Gustav, though, so what can you do?

Read the rest of the series, I suppose.

Holmes on the Range certainly passes the "will I read the next book in the series" test and I've already checked out On the Wrong Track from my local library.

According to Hockensmith's website, there are no plans for a movie or TV adaptation of Holmes on the Range, which is a total shame. I know westerns aren't the hot thing right now, but this would make a seriously entertaining film or mini-series. Also, I vote for Christopher Gorham as Gustav.

I thought long and hard about who I'd want to play Otto and I just couldn't come up with a good idea for his actor. If you've read it, who would you choose? 

I'd recommend Holmes on the Range for anyone who enjoys a good mystery, isn't opposed to westerns, and can handle a little bit of cheesy-ness. 

Up next I'm reading Jellicoe Road, because Britney will kill me if I don't. 

Adios, pardners!


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