Steve Hockensmith’s debut novel has a fantastic mix of mystery, humorous tongue-in-cheek dialogue, and good old-fashioned fun, making Holmes On the Range one heck of a great western yarn. The stars of the show are two Montana Cowboys, Otto and Gustav Amlingmeyer - better known as Big Red (the narrator) and Old Red who does, as the book says, all the “Holmesifying.” In 1892, Big Red reads the Sherlock Holmes story The Red-Headed League to Old Red, and this gets Old Red to thinking that being a detective is his calling in life. It doesn’t take long before he puts his “deducing” to good use.
Big Red and Old Red get hired as cowhands to work at the Bar VR ranch for five dollars a week. Not too long after the manager of the ranch, Perkins, is found dead, a fire is lit under Old Red’s behind to figure out what happened. Soon enough there is be another murder: an albino Negro named Boudreaux is found shot to death in the outhouse. It is here that the Duke, the owner of the property, makes a wager with his young associate Brackwell that Old Red won’t be able to find a believable, plausible explanation for the murders. The story flows into a procedural as the brothers ditch their duties on the ranch and, with Holmes-like reasoning, come up with answers.
I’ll be the first admit that I was dubious when I put the first CD in and started to listen. Would the comedic tone of the story ruin the mystery? Could you successfully merge genres without it becoming a mish-mash of everything? Steve Hockensmith does an absolutely wonderful job, making the comedy/western/mystery work smoothly. The audio performance by William Dufris is absolutely superb. He takes Hockensmith’s characters and breathes life into them; his accents, cadence, and overall acting ability really makes this audio book shine. Just an amazing job all the way around, with the minor quibble being the overuse of similes. It starts to wear a bit thin toward the end, but it doesn’t detract away from the high entertainment value.