First line: "It all began with a short story."
A short while back, Steve Hockensmith made his various Amlingmeyer Brothers short stories available in a collection called Dear Mr. Holmes. It includes seven different stories featuring the crime-solving cowboys--most originally published in Ellery Queen Magazine.
More recently the collection was recorded for audiobook, narrated by Barry Campbell. I had the enjoyable pleasure of listening to the collection. Whether you're a long-time Amlingmeyer fan looking for a Big Red fix or a relative new-comer looking to discover this fun series, Dear Mr. Holmes is just what you're looking for.
Starting off with the story that shares its name with the collection, "Dear Mr. Holmes," Hockensmith takes readers from pre-Holmes on the Range series into the publication of the novels. If you're unfamiliar with the novels, you'll have the chance to start off knowing how they came about and see the timeline of events. If you're a long-time series fan, reading the stories for the first time, they will conjure up memories of the wild and wacky adventures of the wanna-be investigators. The stories, each written in letter format, produce connecting threads that carry the Amlingmeyer Brothers from one full-length novel to the next.
Each of the stories employs the features that make the novels so much fun: keen situational humor, puzzles fit for a Holmes and characters (white hat or black) that splash color across the pages...or the sound waves as the case may be. For his part, Barry Campbell exhibits an obvious grasp of Hockensmith's characters. While a different sound from William Dufris, who narrates the novels, Campbell manages to epitomize the time period, the locale AND the distinctive voices of each role. Hockensmith's dialogue is peppered with dialect to help enhance the atmosphere. Unfortunately that can sometimes be portrayed in an almost comic style that gives the perception of ignorance. Campbell, however, avoids the over-exaggeration allowing the intelligence of both Big Red and Old Red to come through. They are intelligent in different ways, but both smart cookies. Campbell also drives home the sharp wit of each piece, one of my favorite elements of Hockensmith's work.
A true strength of the Amlingmeyer novels and stories is Hockensmith's knowledge of Sherlock Holmes. Instead of merely mimicking the style of the Holmes novels, Hockensmith weaves them into the background of his work and his attention to the fine details is always impressive.
This audiobook short story collection is a great choice for someone contemplating listening to audios. Starting with shorter plots can help to acquaint newbee listeners to the process of enjoying a narrated story.
I laughed often and much and thoroughly enjoyed my visit with two of my favorite cowboys. Dear Mr. Holmes is a pleasurable trip down the Amlingmeyer memory lane or a rousing introduction to the Old West's answer to Sherlock Holmes!
Dear Mr Holmes is available on audio through Audible. The ebook is available through Kobo, Barnes and Noble and Amazon--pick your format.