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Wednesday, March 4, 2020

WESTERN NOVELS—THE CRACK IN THE LENS


WESTERN NOVELS
THE CRACK IN THE LENS
STEVE HOCKENSMITH
I’ve enjoyed Steve Hockensmith’s short stories and Holmes on the Range novels a great deal, so it’s no surprise I like, The Crack in the Lens. 

The book opens much like its predecessors, with the amiable Amilingmeyer brothers, Gustav (Old Red) and Otto (Big Red) near the end of their ropes –only this time, it’s literal. But before we find out how the boys cheat the hangman, good natured narrator Big Red takes us back in time and we learn about the events both recent and long past that brought our heroes to such a dangling precipice. It’s a device Hockensmith has used before but I thought it worked better with this story than any other.

This time too, there’s a more straight-ahead mystery with an intensely personal aspect that threatens the brothers, Old Red especially, on an emotional level. Some readers may see where Hockensmith is headed early on, but that doesn’t take away from the delightful nature of the ride. The story is funny when it needs to be, serious where it ought to be, and packed with excitement throughout.

I’ve come to expect an ensemble cast of characters in these books, but here there aren’t as many secondary characters. With that in mind, The Crack in the Lens seems like the perfect jumping on point for anyone who enjoys mystery, traditional westerns, or darned fine story-telling. I think it’s Hockensmith’s best.

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