Friday, April 5, 2013

Book Review: On the Wrong Track by Steve Hockensmith (Holmes on the Range Mysteries #2)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Twisty plot with lots of fun and surprises
Cons: One part of climax; foul language
The Bottom Line:
Traveling by train brings
These cowboys a second case
A great follow up

The Cowboy Detectives Track Train Trespassers

On the Wrong Track is the second mystery about the Amlingneyer Brothers. Set in 1893, the two men are trying to survive as ranch hands, when they can find work. Gustav "Old Red" is a fanatical devotee of the great detective Sherlock Holmes who, like all dime novel heroes, happens to be real. Younger brother Otto, also known as "Big Red," has no delusions about his own detecting skills, but knows his brother could make a great detective. Big Red is simply happy to go along for the ride. Most of the time.

For example, a chance encounter with dime novel hero Burl Lockhart has landed them jobs with the Pacific Express railroad as traveling security guards. This represents a chance for Old Red to get a step closer to his dream, and he's going for it. However, Big Red is hesitant. After all, the Amlingneyer family has hated the railroads for years. There's no stopping Old Red, however, so Big Red goes along for the ride.

The two men are hardly on board the train before Old Red develops a horrid case of motion sickness. But the real challenge begins when they see the head of the baggage boy roll out from under the train. Clearly, this is no accident. Things only get more confusing when they experience the strangest holdup of all time. What is really happening on board this train?

Even though the book takes place on a very crowded passenger train, we are only introduced to a handful of characters. That makes it very obvious who will be involved in some way in the story. It also helps us get to know the important characters. The characters were so well drawn I never had trouble keeping any of them straight. And our two leads are very realistic brothers I loved spending time around.

Now, just because the list of suspects is small doesn't mean the plot isn't exciting. I was surprised by every twist and turn the story took. I was disappointed by one aspect of the climax as the author did a cheat that is a pet peeve of mine. However, the climax was so action packed it didn't bother me for long. In fact, I was quite glad I was able to read the last 80 or so pages straight through since I don't know if I could have put the book down if I'd been forced to stop reading.

Big Red narrates the story first person. In fact, his dream is to be a writer, and he's writing down their adventure after the fact. However, that means the book is written with a Western accent and some occasional bad grammar. It's just enough to remind us that these characters aren't educated to today's standards. It never got annoying but actually drew me into the novel.

On the other hand, I did have an issue with the foul language in the book. It's not my favorite things, but I'll put up with some for a good story. Here, I felt it was out of hand. And it doesn't matter to me if it was realistic or not. There was enough here to bother me.

That's my only complaint about this story. On the whole, On the Wrong Track is a fun read that will keep everyone who reads it entertained from start to finish.

And you'll enjoy this mysteries most if you read the Holmes on the Range Mysteries in order.

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