Previous reviews are at Mack Pitches Up

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Side Trip on the SHRC: On the Wrong Track, Steve Hockensmith

First sentence: Few things dampen a man's appreciation for natural splendor more quickly than the sound of another man retching.

With that opening, Big Red (Otto) and Old Red (Gus) Amlingmeyer are off on another detectifying adventure in the West of 1893. The boys finally have the opportunity to be real detectives courtesy of a recommendation from a legendary, old-school Pinkerton agent named Burl Lockhart. They are hired by the Southern Pacific railroad and sent on the express train to San Francisco for training. The railroad has all the best men looking for the Give-'em Hell Boys who have been robbing trains and they need men not likely to be spies for the gang.

It doesn't take long for the first body to appear and Old Red gets to apply the analytical techniques of his hero, Sherlock Holmes. With murder, the threat of train robbers, passengers who may be more than they seem, no respect from the train crew, and a bad case of motion sickness, Gus finds his confidence challenged.

On the Wrong Track is the second adventure of Old Red and Big Red. I reviewed the first, Holmes on the Range, here. Like the first book in the series, it is a fun homage to Holmes and Watson. There is less direct reference to Holmes' techniques but there are numerous references to the stories that will amuse the fans of Sherlock Holmes.

There is a different flavor to the story since it is set on a train where Holmes on the Range took place on a ranch. Their fellow passengers are not the common cowboys Gus and Otto are used to dealing with which changes the dynamic considerably.

Gus does his deducifying with Otto, his reluctant Watson, backing him up. Along the way the author looks deeper into the relationship between the brothers, an aspect that I enjoyed and appreciated. It develops them as characters and tightens the relationship with the reader.

It is a good story, well told, with earthy humor and I recommend it (after you've read Holmes on the Range first).