Saturday, June 8, 2013

Book Review: World's Greatest Sleuth! by Steve Hockensmith (Holmes on the Range #5)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Fun main characters, good story
Cons: A tad slow a couple of times; a few too many characters at beginning
The Bottom Line
A World's Fair Murder
Great story and fun setting
Old Red shines again

Competition to Replace Sherlock Holmes Turns Deadly
Or, Old Red Investigates a Cheesy Murder

Several years ago, I stumbled upon the Holmes on the Range mysteries.  The series is narrated by Otto Amlingmeyer (aka Big Red), a cowboy in 1890's America who plays Watson to his brother Gustav's (aka Old Red) Sherlock.  And, in a fun twist on things, in the world they live in, Sherlock Holmes was a real man.  World's Greatest Sleuth! is the fifth tale about these two, and I enjoyed catching up on their latest adventure.

It's 1893 and the Amlingmeyer Brothers are trying to figure out what to do next.  All that changes when Big Red gets a letter from his publisher.  The man wants to enter them in the World's Greatest Sleuth contest about to start at the Chicago World's Fair.  In addition to the cash prize, the winner will claim the mantle of the still missing Sherlock Holmes.  So the two race from Texas to Illinois, barely making it for the first round.

They are thrilled to be reunited with the mystery and beautiful Diana.  However, their enjoyment is tempered by Armstrong Curtis.  The man has recently unmasked one dime novel hero as a fraud and had set his sights on those in the competition.  While the duo have nothing to fear, his attempts to trip them up are annoying.  The second morning, the contest leads all the detectives to Armstrong's very dead body hidden inside the world's largest block of cheese.  While almost everyone wants to chalk it up to an accident, Old Red is certain it is murder.  And with all the secrets their competitors have, there is no lack of motive.  Can Old Red figure out who killed Armstrong and why?

I wouldn't keep coming back to these books if I didn't like the characters, and I continued to enjoy Big Red and Old Red's company.  Old Red can be a bit of a grouch, but he is coming out of his shell in slow increments, and it was fun to see that happen again here.  Big Red is an always fun narrator with some humorous stuff thrown in that makes the pages fly by.

The book has a rather large cast of supporting characters, and they are introduced all at once.  It was a bit overwhelming at times, but the cheat sheet at the beginning helped me keep them all straight.  By the end of the book, I was able to keep all the characters straight.

The story stalls out a time or two, but never for very long.  There are some fun sub-plots that help carry the story along.  The climax was exciting, surprising, and logical.  Plus the post climax ending was great.

I also found the setting fun.  There is something about a story set during a World's Fair that really appealed to me.  I could picture much of what Big Red and Old Red were seeing, so that was great.

World's Greatest Sleuth! is a worthy addition to the Holmes on the Range series.  If you haven't met these two detectives yet, now's a great time to change that.

If you want more Western mysteries, you'll want to go back and read the Holmes on the Range Mysteries in order.

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