Normally, I don’t break my one cardinal rule of reading – never ever ever get something from the Barnes and Noble bargain bin. But my eyes saw the magical words “Edgar Award” and I decided Edgar Award surely could trump the stench of bad bargain books. I was so so wrong. I stopped reading and went into “shut up and take my money” mode right after Edgar Award, so I didn’t notice the few qualifiers that came with Edgar Award – namely, “from the Edgar Award finalist author”. Which, as you can plainly see because you’re a normal person not blinded by Edgar Awards, means this book has never, ever been up for an Edgar Award. And rightfully so.
(Since I’ve said Edgar Award five million times, I should maybe tell you what that is – it’s the Oscars for mystery writers. So far, 99% of Edgar Award finalists I’ve read had been utterly fantastic, so I’m already primed to grab any book where “Edgar” and “Award” appear on the cover.)
Gustav and Otto are two former cowboys that think they can be detectives because they read Sherlock Holmes stories. That’s it. That’s the series in a nutshell. In The Black Dove, which is the second or third in the series (not that it matters, this book can work as an introduction if you seriously have nothing else to read and the library is closed indefinitely) they work on a murder case in San Francisco’s Chinatown near the end of the 1800’s. So add in a generous dollop of country boys in the big city tropes, stir in a few dead bodies, sprinkle in some racism and stuff in all into the overcooked roast that is Sherlock Holmes homages and you have this book. Stick a fork in it, it’s done.
But wait! There’s MORE! The real kick-you-in-the-crotch fun comes from the ongoing gimmick of writing the whole book in gin-you-wine, nineteenth century cowpoke! And it’s not just that Hockensmith writes the whole book in an accent, but you also get nonsense colloquials that leave you scratching your head so hard, it’ll look like a herd of rabid varmints tried to eat your scalp! One or two things can be “slick as an otter’s ass”, but if every other sentence is going to beat me over the head with hokey vernacular, I’d rather just watch Blazing Saddles.