Thom Geier
March 16, 2007 AT 04:00 AM EDT

On the Wrong Track

Current Status
In Season
Steve Hockensmith
St. Martin's Minotaur
Mystery and Thriller, Fiction

We gave it a B

Cowboy detectives Gustav and Otto Amlingmeyer, the heroes of last year’s delightfully offbeat Holmes on the Range, are back on the trail in Steve Hockensmith’s On the Wrong Track. Not literally, this time. They sell their horses to become investigators for a railroad that’s been hit repeatedly by a gang of bandits. So the brothers go undercover on a train heading west from Chicago’s Exposition of 1893 with a rogue’s gallery that includes a cardsharp, a wiseacre salesman, and hymn-singing Presbyterians — not to mention a cold-blooded murderer. While the humorous asides are less frequent than in the last book, they are just as welcome. At one point, Otto, our narrator, notes of his brother, who fancies himself a Wild West rival to Sherlock Holmes: ”Gustav’s got about as much fat on him as a licorice whip.” Hockensmith’s new book is similarly lean, though the mystery is probably more convoluted than it needs to be. B

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