Tuesday, January 19, 2010

HOLMES ON THE RANGE - Steve Hockensmith

FIRST LINE: "There are two things you can't escape out here in the West: dust and death."

Big Red and Old Red Amlingmeyer are ranch hands and they are brothers. Big Red is educated and can read; Old Red is a genius, but cannot. "Old Red" relies on his younger brother to read him Sherlock Holmes stories from Harper's Weekly because Old Red worships Sherlock Homes. "Some folks get religion. Gustav got Sherlock Holmes." When the brothers are offered a job at the Bar VR cattle ranch, they jump at the chance for employment but find far more than they bargained for when they unearth a possible murder. But Old Red sees an opportunity to put his deducifyin' skills to work, determined to solve the case.

HOLMES ON THE RANGE is the first book by Steve Hockensmith in the Holmes on the Range series featuring the Amlingmeyer brothers. It is a unique blend of comedy, western and mystery.

Written in first person, HOLMES ON THE RANGE follows in the format of Sherlock Holmes. Otto Amlingmeyer, a.k.a. "Big Red", is the educated narrator. Gustav Amlingmeyer, a.k.a. "Old Red", is the uneducated brother with a keen sense of logic and observation. And the book is fiction, in the same fictional world as Sherlock Holmes, so Sherlock Holmes exists and is a real person living in London, while the Amlingmeyer brothers read about him in Montana. This allows Hockensmith to weave subtle elements of the original Holmes tales into his book.

More than Sherlock Holmes comes to life in HOLMES ON THE RANGE, though. Through his colorful descriptions and dialogue, Hockensmith gives the Amlingmeyer brothers spunk and flaws and all-around dimension:

"My brother squinted at me as if trying to figure out why such a featherlight thing as my head doesn't go drifting off my shoulders with the slightest breeze."
Another detail that helps to bring the characters to life in this novel is Hockensmith's use of dialect, word choice and idioms:

"Usually when Old Red gets bossy with me - which is only about a hundred times a day - I repay his piss with vinegar. But my brother got no sass from me now, as
fetching tools sounded a hell of a lot more appetizing than separating innards from earth."

"Now when a herd gets spooked, there's no figuring which way that avalanche of beef will tumble, which is why so many punchers pass through the pearly gates looking like strawberry jam."
And the plot plays out just as a Doyle Holmes novel would. Hockensmith gives the reader the clues; can you deducify and solve the puzzle? HOLMES ON THE RANGE is witty, smart, and downright fun.

HOLMES ON THE RANGE is published by St. Martin's Minotaur and is available in hardcover (ISBN: 978-0312347802) and trade paper (ISBN: 978-0312358044) HOLMES ON THE RANGE is available on audio book from Tantor Media (ISBN: 978-1400102259).


Corey Wilde January 19, 2010 at 9:33 AM  

Jen, because of you, my reading list is now longer than a country mile. Thanks, sincerely.

Steve Hockensmith January 19, 2010 at 11:34 AM  

Thanks for the kind words, Jen! Us struggling unheralded genius types thrive on moments like this. It gives us the strength to carry on until the Pulitzer committee finally comes to its senses....


le0pard13 January 19, 2010 at 12:20 PM  

Woohoo! It's on audiobook, too. And, it sounds very intriguing. Thanks, Jen.

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