World's Greatest Sleuth!: A Holmes on the Range Mystery
by Steve Hockensmith
Review by Gayle Surrette
Minotaur Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780312379438
Date: 18 January 2011 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Since the events in The Crack in the Lens, the Amlingmeyer's have been taking a time out by helping some friends work their goat farm. Otto hates goats, but Gustav's lost his eyesight and there's not much they can do. The doctor says he'll slowly regain his sight but meantime he's wearing dark glasses. He's not giving updates on whether he's improving or not. So, when Otto goes to town to check their mail and buy a couple of magazines and finds his publisher wants them at the Chicago World's Fair to compete in the World's Greatest Sleuth contest – he's determined to get Gustav to Chicago and back to work. Someone has to take over the title now that Holmes has been killed.
The problems start almost as soon as they arrive in Chicago. Their publisher wants to dress them up as cowboys. Since they are cowboys, they're already dressed that way. Gustav flat out refuses to dress up in the publisher's ridiculous clothes, but Otto is more than happy to put them on – until he finds that it's nearly impossible to get around in them, especially without attracting attention.
The other contestants are also pulp novel detectives. They need to follow clues each day and get to the prize before the others – the detective with the highest score at the end of the contest wins the title. When the first death occurs, no one seems interested in finding the killer except for the Amlingmeyers. Seems murder is bad publicity and they don't want to hurt the World's Fair.
Hockensmith manages to bring the Chicago World's Fair to life for the reader. We don't seem to have anything today that rivals the excitement and the thrill that people at the time found in visiting the World's Fair and seeing the wonders of the world on display for them. With TV and movies and the opportunity to travel, we can see those wonders for ourselves. Back then it was the biggest state fair, Epcot Center, Disneyland, and Six Flags (with a touch of the Consumer Electronics Show) all rolled into one big event . Into that confusion of sights and sounds, the Amlingmeyers find themselves overwhelmed and under-appreciated. They may be just cowboys but their hearts are in the right place – they know what's more important: winning a contest or finding a killer. If finding the killers means that they have to be the butt of the other contestant's jokes...well, so be it.
There's action, adventure, surprises, bearded men, secrets, and intrigue. Most of all there's a good story with strong characters that, as readers, we're going to care about. There's allies in strange places and a very surprising ending. For nothing is as it seems, when window dressing is more important than actual ability. This series just keeps getting better and better as the brothers grow in experience and respect for each other's abilities.