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Dear Mr. Holmes: Seven Holmes on the Range Mysteries Paperback – April 12, 2011
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"For fans of Steve Hockensmith's Holmes on the Range series this collection of short stories is something you should not miss. For those who'd like to discover just why so much praise is directed at Steve Hockensmith's books, then this is the perfect place to start." --Western Fiction Review
About the Author
Steve Hockensmith is the author of the "Holmes on the Range" mysteries starring Sherlock Holmes-loving cowboys "Big Red" and "Old Red" Amlingmeyer. The first book in the series was a finalist for the Edgar, Shamus, Anthony and Dilys Awards, and the fourth, The Crack in the Lens, was a finalist for the Nero. In 2010, Hockensmith's novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls managed to slip onto the New York Times best-seller list (and irritate a lot of Jane Austen fans). A sequel, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After, followed. Hockensmith's next novel, an occult-themed mystery, will be released by Quirk Books in early 2013. Before turning his attention to books, Hockensmith was a prolific writer of short fiction. His mystery stories were nominated for nearly every major award in the field (including the Anthony, Shamus, Barry, Macavity and Derringer) and appeared in several year's best anthologies. He is not an egomaniac, no matter what this bio might make you think.
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I have to admit I was tempted to stop reading this in the beginning. It rambles and (for a while) seems to give the impression that cowboys are "not quite all there". As a Texan I took offense at the dumbing down this guy was apparently giving cowboys. However, I persevered, and I'm glad I did because I genuinely liked the story. It may take too long to get where it is going, but the end is a nice reward for hanging in there.
Take a chance on this one if you are a Holmes fan. While it is not about his escapades it does show how they can inspire a dusty old cowboy to follow Holmes' example of deduction to figure out a definite problem. See if you don't agree it is indeed worth the trouble it takes to get to the end.
GUSTAV AMLINGMEYER, HOLMES OF THE RANGE: Gustav had been saving most of his and Otto's pay from working on the cattle drives and he convinced Otto that they should purchase and run a "restaurant". Otto wasn't too sure about this since neither of them could cook. But when Gustav already had that figured out, Otto had no more arguments: it was clear this is what they were going to do.
Things were running along fairly well until one of the customers dropped dead while eating dinner. The person everyone suspected was promptly hauled off to jail. Once again Gustav used Holmes' reasoning to ferret out the killer (in jail or not).
This story didn't ramble like the first one. The characters are all clearly portrayed, and the death is explained (natural or murder). Fun read.
WOLVES IN WINTER: Otto and Gustav had become somewhat of a sensation since a man dropped dead while eating dinner at their cafe. However, almost from the start of this story things made another dramatic turn: there was a run on the banks, and their bank closed "until further notice" before they could get out their money.
Since there were no jobs in town our 2 brothers decided to head east and see what they could find. After buying provisions for the trip the 2 of them had about $5.
Stopping each night at a different camp or ranch, they were making progress. But by day number 6 things changed again. The sun never really came up, it began snowing after only 2 hours of riding, and the air was cold and biting.
As the snow beneath them began to ice over, Otto and Gustav knew they could continue until they found someplace to build a decent wind break or they could build a crude shelter out of available resources. Before they had made a decision, things became even more desperate: they were about to become prey.
Read the story to see what happened to our 2 cowboys: just know that becoming prey would not be the only danger they would face before this day ended.
While these stories are not what I think about when I think of Sherlock Holmes, they bring a fresh face to old Holmes, and they make for some fun, easy reading so try them. Who knows? You just might be pleasantly surprised.
DEAR DR. WATSON: This letter begins as a condolence letter, but it soon turns into another case of "deducifying" by Gustav (with Otto's help, of course). It seems Gustav is determined to follow Sherlock Holmes and use his abilities to observe and make deductions about people and situations. So far he has always proven correct as far as his "cases" go.
THE WATER INDIAN: The Amlingmeyer brothers were passing through UT when they came upon an abandoned farmhouse. Sleeping on the floor by the hearth for the night, they were awakened by the sound of something crashing through the trees. Peering into the darkness they saw 2 eyes a foot apart and 9-10 feet up in the trees. When they took the shotgun outside to investigate, the two eyes disappeared as something moved away from them through the trees.
In the morning Gustav was investigating when a man approached. He and his 2 daughters had a cabin nearby so the Amlingmeyer brothers joined them for breakfast. Before leaving this family Gustav was determined to solve the mystery of the "monster".
Another good yarn, but this one rambled in the beginning just like the first story.
THE DEVIL'S ACRE: Gustav might have been the brother with a talent for "detectiving", but in San Francisco he had to leave that for Otto. Seems Gustav was in a heap of trouble and needed to be rescued. (Another rambling story, but not as much fun.)
GREETINGS FROM PURGATORY!: After the trouble in San Francisco Gustav decided to go to San Marcos, TX. However, they had some trouble on the train. (And Otto is still rambling.)
Big Red and Old Red Amlingmeyer are fans of Sherlock Holmes... in the Old West. They are drifters, and in their... drifting they came upon several chances (7 documented here) of applying Sherlockian (or is that Holmesian?) skills to solve mysteries about murders, robberies, and more. Whether it's along the cattle trails of Kansas or a cafe in California, deductifying never gets old.
As a Holmes tribute, these stories are VERY nicely crafted, paying homage to Holmes without turning it into a mockery, but with all new characters and settings. And the short story format allowed fast pace of setup, climax, and resolution. If you like Sherlock Holmes and detective fiction, you should like this author
When reading the author's collection of Christmas short stories, I learned to read everything included so I wouldn't miss a single laugh, and the same thing holds true for Dear Mr. Holmes. Since most of these stories were originally published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, there are several copyright notices. Read 'em. All of 'em. And the introduction contains not only a few chuckles, but the tale of just how Old Red And Big Red Amlingmeyer came into existence, which is very interesting indeed.
The seven stories contained in this collection are "Dear Mr. Holmes," "Gustav Amlingmeyer, Holmes of the Range," "Wolves in Winter," "Dear Mr. Watson," "The Water Indian," "The Devil's Acre," and "Greetings from Purgatory!" Every one is a gem.
Each one is written in the form of a letter to various magazines of the day, or to someone like Dr. Watson himself, and Big Red invariably mentions a manuscript or story that he'd mailed earlier. He usually takes a while to shoot the breeze with the letter's recipient before he actually begins telling his tale, and as I read I couldn't help but think that I wouldn't mind receiving a few of these letters from that tall, red-headed cowpoke. The stories move from being hilarious to downright creepy, and the Old West feels so real that I swear I could hear the jingle of spurs as I turned the pages.
If you've been intrigued by Steve Hockensmith's series of mysteries featuring two cowboy sleuths in the American West of the 1890s, but you haven't really wanted to invest the time it would take to read one of the books, this collection of short stories is an excellent place to start. Once you've sampled how Old Red and Big Red Amlingmeyer solve a case, I wouldn't be at all surprised if you headed straight out to the corral to rope a few of those books. It's real easy to take a shine to these two brothers.