The Crack In The Lens (2009) by Steve Hockensmith

This week I’m doing two entries for the Alphabet of Crime Fiction. Why? Because the last two books I read qualify and I figure both could do with a wider audience. First there was The Spanish Cape Mystery – part of my Ellery Queen bibliography A Challenge To This Reader and then there was Steve Hockensmith’s The Crack In The Lens – and a big thank you to my parents-in-law for this, as it was a birthday present.

The Crack In The Lens is the fourth in the Holmes on the Range series and possibly the best of the first four – it certainly gives the debut title (Holmes on the Range) a good run for its money. Old Red, the illiterate Sherlock Holmes-wannabe and his brother and biographer, Big Red, have finally had a bit of luck. They’ve solved a few cases and Big Red has finally been published. So Old Red decides that it’s time to re-open an old wound. His first and only love was brutally murdered in an alleyway in a small town in the middle of nowhere. Old Red decides that now he has the talents to finally bring the murderer to justice. Unfortunately a lot of people want the past to stay buried, and they’re willing to do whatever it takes to stop the brothers from raking up the town’s secrets.

I suppose I’ve already given away what I thought about this book – I absolutely loved it. First off is the voice that it’s written in – Big Red, while not the detective his brother is, is an intelligent and witty companion throughout the adventure and there are a number of times when I found myself laughing out loud. The plot never stays still, constantly branching out in different directions with a slew of red herrings. Even with the killer revealed, there are still shocks to come, one in particular that caught me by surprise. It’s a combination of adventure and mystery, and the mystery will keep you guessing until the end.

Any gripes? – well, the clues are a bit circumstantial, in hindsight, but they are there and the killer is certainly guessable if not obvious. I think the highest compliment I can pay this book is that it’s the sort of book that I’d love to be able to write. A page turner that makes you laugh and also has a plot to make you think. A book that you’ll enjoy reading from cover to cover. Highly recommended indeed.


  1. I enjoyed Holmes on the Range but have not read the subsequent books. Do you recommend them in order or can I skip to The Crack in the Lens? I saw Steve at an author event in California. He was an engaging and entertaining speaker.


  2. If you enjoyed Holmes on the Range, Bill, then I’d go through the series in order – they’re all good – just that Holmes and Crack are my favourites. There is some mild plot development for the characters, but nothing major if you were to read them out of sequence.


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