Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Book Review: Holmes on the Range by Steve Hockensmith (Holmes on the Range #1)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Great characters, lots of fun
Cons: Needless fart jokes, story bogs down in the middle
The Bottom Line:
Travel to old west
And meet the cowboy Sherlock
On his first big case

I Reckon You'll Enjoy this Western Mystery

Old Red and Big Red are the last two members of their family. With nothing to tie them down, the brothers drift from place to place looking for work.

That's how they come to find themselves in Montana during the winter of 1893. Times are hard and the two are reduced to waiting out the winter hoping to get hired once spring round up starts.

But one day, the foreman of the Bar VR ranch offers them jobs. Despite the rumors of something mysterious happening there, the two take the jobs.

Or maybe it is because of the rumors. See, Old Red has recently heard some of the stories about Sherlock Holmes and has become enthralled with the idea of solving a case of his own.

The brothers arrive with the other men hired at the time and find themselves confined to the area around the massive ranch house. But Old Red still finds every excuse he can to sniff out clues. But when the ranch manager dies in a stampede, it looks like he'll have a chance to truly play detective.

Above all, this is a fun debut. The novel is written from Big Red's point of view, and his constant editorial comments are lots of fun. He has a real way with similes as well, making the story come alive with vivid word pictures. The book is written with just a slight Western accent, nothing so bad you can't read it, but just enough to add to the fun.

Then there are the characters. The brothers' relationship brings plenty of laughter. They love each other, yet they also annoy each other, much like real life. And the rest of the characters are quite a mix - English nobility, a wannabe cowboy, real cowboys, and a Swedish chef to name a few. Yet Steve Hockensmith completely pulls it off; I believed each one of these characters is real.

The story is intriguing as well. It does get bogged down part way through, but not for too long. When it does pick up again, the pace never lags until the end.

This story takes place in a world where Sherlock Holmes is real. As such, there is a treat for Holmes' fans in the story. No, the man himself doesn't appear, but that's all I'm going to say.

One thing that did surprise me was the presence of fart jokes. They are (thankfully) only in a couple scenes, but frankly seem out of place to me. The foul language was higher then I normally like, but I rather suspected that going into the story.

This book easily blurs genre lines. If you enjoy Westerns or mysteries, you'll enjoy Holmes on the Range.

And if you enjoy this debut, you'll want to read the rest of the Holmes on the Range mysteries in order.

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