cover image On the Wrong Track

On the Wrong Track

Steve Hockensmith, . . St. Martin's Minotaur, $23.95 (292pp) ISBN 978-0-312-34781-9

In Hockensmith's hilarious second 1890s romp starring the cattle drovers–turned–detectives Gustav "Old Red" and Otto "Big Red" Amlingmeyer (after 2006's acclaimed Holmes on the Range ), the brothers are hired as guards for the Southern Pacific, a rail line bedeviled by the "Give-'em-Hell Boys" who rob gold shipments. After baggage handler Joe Pezullo's severed head bounces from the Pacific Express, Gustav, inspired by his hero Sherlock Holmes, hopes to apply his own deductive powers to the case. In the Pullman is a collection of oddballs, including seductive suffragist Miss Diana Caveo, shady Dr. Chan and boozed-up cowboy detective Burl Lockhart. The baggage car contains even stranger cargo: a crated snake, two coffins and the self-proclaimed King of the Hoboes, dubbed "Numero Uno." Otto's uproarious narration takes us to Thornton's Boiler #2, a dilapidated saloon, where the Amlingmeyers rescue Burl and Chan from the clutches of raucous cowpunchers. As this fast-moving express hurtles toward a spectacular ending, Gustav searches for ways to apply Holmes's crime-solving genius to the comic bedlam. Author tour. (Mar.)