On the Wrong Track


Cowboy detectives Gustav (“Old Red”) and Otto (“Big Red”) Amlingmeyer are back, and the Southern Pacific Railroad’s got them in this rollicking second installment of the Holmes on the Range mysteries. Otto again plays Watson to Gustave’s “deducifying” Holmes to great, folksy effect. This time out, the boys are hired on as railroad detectives on an 1893 run to San Francisco, despite Gustave’s debilitating motion sickness and their family’s distrust of farm-stealin’, cattle-killin’, money-grubbin’ railroads.

Soon, an unscheduled stop is made to gather a decapitated body, and it becomes clear to the brothers that there’s a murderer on board. An unscheduled visit by the infamous Give ΄em Hell Boys compounds the mystery. Taciturn Gustav and Candide-in-spurs Otto deal with cardsharks, a sharpshooter legend turned drunk and sharp-eared twin hellions, undercover train operatives, and a lady who isn’t quite who she seems. The baggage car holds everything from two coffins to a pesky snake to a Chinese doctor’s porcelain collection to the stowaway King of the Hobos.

Mysteries compound and bodies multiply as our boys, their friends and enemies try to stay on track in this entertaining journey. Besides the mystery, some secrets of the heart and family come to light as the brothers face murderers, hairpin turns, and their own fears. Despite a quibble against an unnecessary flash-forward opening that confused this reader, Otto and Gustav’s second outing was great fun. Long may the brothers ride the range or the rails!

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