BOOK REVIEW: THE BLACK DOVE
Gustav “Old Red” and Otto “Big Red” Amlingmeyer are back again for their third adventure in The Black Dove. The two brothers from Kansas having worked as ranch hands in Holmes on the Range and as agents for the Southern Pacific Railroad police in On the Wrong Track, are now in San Francisco attempting to become “serious” consulting detectives.
Because they have aspired to their chosen career by reading Sherlock Holmes stories, they spend their free time trying to hone their skills as the great Holmes would do. As they are practicing their “Sherlockery” in Chinatown, they choose someone to “detectify.” That someone turns out to be Doctor Gee Woo Chan whom they met while working on the railroad. They call out a greeting to Dr. Chan, he turns and fires a pistol at them. They are stunned. When a very nervous Dr. Chan realizes who they are, he apologizes, but won't tell them why is is so jumpy. Gus and Otto are determined to help their friend, but before they have had a chance to begin, Dr. Chan's body is found dead. The police assure them it was suicide, but by making Holmes-like observations, they are sure he was murdered.
They soon are joined by another friend from their railroad days, Diana Corvus. Before long, the three of them discover a connection between Dr. Chan and a missing girl known as “the black dove.” While searching for clues in not only the doctor's death, but the disappearance of the girl, they get crosswise to the powerful Tongs, a hatchet-wielding gang.
Hockensmith has added a different feel to the traditional historical mystery. While the books do transport the readers back to a different time and place, they are funnier than most historicals-sort of the “dramedies”of the historical mystery genre. That's both good and bad. While the books are very entertaining to read, and the mysteries to be solved cleaver, sometimes the creative language and near slapstick action teeters on silly. Thus far, Hockensmith has been successful in making the brothers' quirky speech and methods colorful rather than cutesy. Hopefully that will continue through many more adventures.
REVIEWED BY CARYN ST. CLAIR
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