Thursday, October 12, 2023

Book Review: Hunters of the Dead by Steve Hockensmith (Holmes on the Range #7)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great to see a new book in this series
Cons: Nothing by the time the book ends
The Bottom Line:
Hunting a killer
Great to see characters here
Well-constructed plot

Finding a Killer Among the Bones

It’s been several years since the last time we saw brothers Old Red and Big Red Amlingmeyer in Steve Hockensmith’s wonderful Holmes on the Range series.  I’ve always enjoyed it, so I was delighted when he announced a new publisher was not only reprinting the first six books but going to publish Hunters of the Dead, an all-new case.

For those who haven’t started the series yet, Old Red and Big Red (yes, these are nicknames, but it’s what everyone calls them), started out the series as cowboys in the 1890’s.  They had discovered the stories about Sherlock Holmes (which, of course, are true) and Old Red decided to apply his methods to the world around them.  It’s a good thing he did because the brothers started finding cases to solve.  At this point in the series, they’re part of the A.A. Western Detective Agency and not cowboys any more.

For their first assignment as part of the agency, they are being sent to Wyoming to help with security at a dinosaur dig.  You wouldn’t think it would be a hot bed of crime, but as the brothers learn when they arrive, there is another group of paleontologists nearby, and the two groups do not get along at all.  Still, keeping watch in the middle of the night sounds like a boring job, until Old Red finds a dead body.  Will he figure out what happened before a killer strikes again?

Since it’s been a few years since I read any of the books in the series, the characters and their relationships weren’t fresh in my mind.  But it wasn’t long before I was back in the world of these brothers.  There are several references to the previous book in the series, but all the background you truly need is here.  It helps that the brothers are the only characters who have been in every book in the series, although a few characters from the last book show up again here.

The plot of the book seems to wander at times, which is always the case with the series.  However, don’t let that fool you.  Old Red is always observing, and watching him weave all the pieces of the story together, including things that you didn’t think were important, is wonderful.  I was impressed with how the clues I caught, combined with things I missed, brought him to the obvious conclusion at the end.  You know, the obvious conclusion I had completely overlooked.

Meanwhile, we get entertaining characters.  Yes, some of them stay a little thin, but the majority become more real as the story progresses.

And there’s the humor.  I’d forgotten just how much fun these books could be.  Big Red narrates the books, and his wry observations on the events happening around him are a delight.  There are also plenty of jabs from the characters at each other.

This is a mystery set in the old west, so as you can imagine, this isn’t one of my typical cozies.  There’s a bit more violence, but mostly things come from the language the characters use.  Even then, it is subdued (which I appreciate) and feels completely realistic to me.  As long as you know this going into the book, you’ll be fine.

While everything from this story is wrapped up, the final pages tease the next case for the brothers.  I hope we find out more about it soon.

Fans of the series will be thrilled to see the brothers back in action in Hunters of the Dead.  If these books sound like fun to you, you’ll definitely want to start the series today.

Here are the rest of the Holmes on the Range Mysteries.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.


  1. Thanks for the great review, Mark! It means a lot getting the stamp of approval from someone who knows the genre so well!

  2. I've read several in the series - the train robbers one comes to mind - and they are really fun. Thanks for the review!
    Are you reading any books now for an upcoming vacation like you did before with the setting of the books where you are heading?

  3. Nice review. I am glad you enjoyed it. I need to pick up more in the series since I did enjoy The Double A Western Detective Agency.

  4. I forgot about this series. I read at least the first one and enjoyed it. I should pick up some of the others.


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