Holmes on the Range (Fiction: by Steve Hockensmith) c. 2006

Summary: Times are hard in 1893 Montana, and a cowboy takes any decent job he can. Which is how Big Red and Old Red Amlingmeyer end up working for the shady and secretive Bar-VR outfit, looking only for hard work, bad pay and the chance to relax now and again with a few Sherlock Holmes stories pulled from Harper’s Weekly. Things take a drastic turn, however, when another hand turns up dead in the outhouse. Old Red had long felt that, illiterate cowboy though he may be, he had a mind meant for something greater. And so, with his brother along for the ride, he sets out to solve the case using skills gleaned from his hero, the Great Detective himself.

Review: This is the first in what is currently a 5 book series, and a finalist in 2007 for the Edgar Award for Best First Novel. And, with strong writing and likeable characters, it was certainly worthy of that consideration. Fair warning, this is not a mystery for everyone. Big Red, who narrates, does so with a sort of laconic Roy-Rogers-esque humor that will polarize readers. And while it has a humorous element, this is most definitely not a cozy. Readers of Carl Hiaasen and Donald Westlake, though, will probably be best rewarded here. Readers of westerns will likely find a lot to like as well.

Read-a-like: If you enjoyed this one, there are of course a further 4 titles in the Holmes on the Range series. While they are more comic thrillers, the works of Carl Hiaasen and Tim Dorsey may be worth a look as well. Donald Westlake is another mystery author well-known for deadpan comedy in his mysteries. Mystery writers with series in the contemporary west, such as Peter Bowen and Nevada Barr, may be worth a look as well. Larry McMurtry’s westerns would probably be worth a look for those that enjoyed the setting.

Availability: This title is available from the Lake Bluff Public Library as a book and an eAudiobook. Click here to check on the availability!

Review by Eric.

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