There's no doubt about it—something mighty peculiar is going on at the Bar VR cattle spread, something that would take a Sherlock Holmes to figure out.
Only Sherlock is busy elsewhere, so readers of Holmes on the Range are going to have to settle for Old Red, all of 27 and a devotee of the great detective's stories, and his younger brother, Big Red, a Watson-in-training. It's a pretty good compromise.
Times are tough in 1893 Montana when the Amlingmeyer brothers, all that's left of a family decimated by disease and flood, sign on at the secretive ranch, run by the nasty McPherson boys for the absentee British owners. The brothers and a handful of other drovers recruited from the Hornet's Nest saloon aren't at the Bar VR before a body, trampled to pulp, is found out on the range, following a big storm. Old Red is suspicious.
But before he can start to do much in the way of detecting, the owners of the Bar VR just happen to show up: the pompous Duke, his daughter Lady Clara, her would-be suitor Young Blackwell, the mysterious, tight-lipped Mr. Edwards, and their retinue. Throw in a handful of other colorful characters—Boudreaux, an albino Negro cowpuncher, and Hungry Bob, a reputed cannibal at large--and the stage is set for a story that twists and turns its way like a rain-carved gully through dusty sage plains.
This may also be the first locked room mystery where the room is an outhouse.
But what makes this story special is the dialog, the rhythms of cow talk and Big Red's sassy, cynical take on a life that is hard under the best of circumstances. The mystery is indeed a good, complex one, but of the “all is revealed in the last two chapters” sort.
This report prepared by Jon Kapecki
In Steve Hockensmith's debut novel he mixes mystery and a fun western yarn in Holmes On the Range. The book opens up with Big Red (Otto Amlingmeyer) explaining how his brother Old Red (Gustav Amlingmeyer) got interested in being a detective after Otto read Gustav the Sherlock Holmes story The Red-Headed League. The cowpokes soon get hired for the Bar VR ranch for five dollars a week. Not long after they arrive, Big Red and Old Red find the mangled corpse of manager, Perkins. This motivates Old Red to investigate and soon the corpse of another worker on the ranch is found dead. It's here that the owner of the land makes a bet with his underling Brackwell that the brothers will not solve the case. Bid Red and Old Red then stop their duties on the farm and go full time into investigating the murders, solving the riddles in a plausible manner for the Duke.
This report prepared by Bobby Blades