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.