How could any mystery-loving, country-western-dancing, Kansas-City-raised gal resist a title like Holmes on the Range? Not me, for sure! The minute someone mentioned this book to me, I snatched it off the library shelf.
But despite the kickin’ title, I didn’t have high expectations. I’d never heard of the book, which has been around since 2006, or the author (Steve Hockensmith), and I read tons of mysteries—not to mention I work at the library. So I would have been satisfied with a mediocre whodunit for my bedside table.
Well, whaddya know? I was up until one a.m., avidly following–and laughing at–the exploits of cowboy brothers Old Red and Big Red Amlingmeyer, as they played Holmes and Watson on a Montana ranch in the late 1800s.
There’s “game afoot” at the ranch, as Holmes would say. Even though they’re nothing but hired hands, Big Red and Old Red can’t keep their noses out of a locked-outhouse murder mystery on the owner’s estate. Though the dead man in the privy is a much-disliked ranch foreman, the brothers immediately set about “deductifying”—which eventually involves more dead bodies, an unrequited Victorian romance, gunplay (of course), stampedes and lots of brotherly bickering.
This is author Hockensmith’s first book, but Old Red and Big Red are fully developed characters, with depth and charm to spare. Turns out Hockensmith has been spinning tales about Old Red and Big Red for years, as short stories in Ellery Queen’s Mystery magazine. He’s also gone and written three more books starring the cowboy detectives.