Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great mystery with sense of urgency; fun
Cons: None worth dwelling on
The Bottom Line:
Town set to explode
Adds urgency to story
Fun from start to end
Detectifying in the Old West Once Again
It's always hard when a series you love stops. That's how I felt several years ago when the Holmes on the Range series went on hiatus, so you can imagine how happy I was when I learned that Steve Hockensmith was writing another adventure for Big Red and Old Red. The Double-A Western Detective Agency was definitely worth the wait.
If you haven't yet discovered this series, it is set in the 1890's in the American west. Big Red and Old Red, aka Otto and Gustov Amlingmeyer, are brothers who have discovered the adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and Old Red has taken to "detectifying," modeling his work after his hero. That leaves Big Red to record his brother's adventures.
As this book picks up, Big Red and Old Red have started a new detective agency with Diana and her father, Colonel Crowe. There's just one problem, the lack of paying customers. So when they are hired to travel to DeBatge, New Mexico, and catch some cattle rustlers, Old Red reluctantly agrees to go even though it's not the kind of case he wants to take. With Diana tagging along, the brothers set out.
However, when they arrive, they discover a town divided with tension running high. The source of this powder keg? Their client. Then a dead body turns up, igniting the fuse. Can Old Red figure things out before the town explodes? Will the trio get caught in the crossfire no matter what happens?
Fans of the series will be delighted to be back in the presence of these cowboys turned detectives. This series has always been tons of fun, and this book is no exception. Because of the nature of our heroes, traveling cowboys, the series has never been super big on supporting characters, Diana and her father coming the closest. I enjoyed getting to see her again in this book, and her relationship with the brothers is just as fun as always. This leaves us plenty of new characters, and it isn't always easy to tell which are friend and which are foe. That's perfect for a mystery.
The plot is enhanced by the backdrop of the town at odds with each other. Now don't misunderstand, there is a strong mystery here, and Old Red does a masterful job of piecing it together. I had a piece here or there figured out, but I was far from knowing the entire picture. But when the brothers are facing life or death just about every other chapter, it adds a sense of suspense and urgency to unraveling the mystery that I enjoyed. While there is no official ticking clock, you can almost sense things ticking down to an explosion if Old Red can't solve things in time, which kept me glued to the page.
The book does include more foul language than the cozies I typically read, but I knew that going in. The content is certainly in keeping with the rest of the books in the series and keeps it firmly in the traditional subset of the mystery genre.
I've mentioned how much fun this series is, and one reason for that is the humor. Between Big Red and Old Red's relationship and Big Red's narration, there are plenty of chuckles and laughs on the way that help relieve the tension. The chapter titles are another great source of grins – they might even include a pun or two you'll appreciate more as the action in the chapter unfolds.
Since Old Red is now a full-fledged detective, I'm hoping this means we'll get more stories featuring this delightful duo. I was sorry to return to the present when I finished The Double-A Western Detective Agency.
If you've missed any of these books, here are the Holmes on the Range mysteries in order.