by Mary Doria Russell
Hardcover, 394 pg.
Random House, 2013
Read: June 9-13, 2012
I was almost 100 pages into this novel when the thought occurred to me how extraordinarily careful Russell was in the way she put this together. Not that I think most authors are sloppy or anything, but the effort to make sure every piece, every word, every event was placed juuuust so was very evident.
The result of all this care is a heckuva novel about the years and events leading up to Wyatt & Morgan Earp heading to Tombstone with their good buddy Doc Holliday. Warm, exciting, brutal–this novel reads like a fast-paced biography. Really, really well written–there are a couple of times that Russell overplays her hand and gets downright manipulative, and at least once she almost lost me while doing so.
I’m glad I stuck it out tho’, the climax was as heart-breaking as it was heart-warming, and the coda put a nice little bow on the whole thing. Well worth the time and effort.
Holmes on the Range by Steve Hockensmith
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
You just have to love this concept. An illiterate cowboy in 1890’s Montana hears about Sherlock Holmes due to the republication of some of Watson’s accounts in American periodicals. He’s drawn by what Holmes does and sets about getting his hands on all of Watson’s reports he can. And then he makes his brother read them to him over and over and over so he can learn how to do what Holmes does. At some point he thinks he’s learned enough to start, and puts himself in a situation to put his skills to the test. And presto, you’ve got yourself a novel.
So much for the concept–how was the execution? Ehhh, not as good. It was dull, downright slow, filled with a bunch of cliched Western types. It was interesting enough to keep me reading, but man, did it get sloggy in parts. I’m glad I persevered, because the conclusion was satisfying (even if it’s pace was 200% of what preceded it) and the central characters were amusing.
These brothers offer a great take on Holmes/Watson, and I’m sure I’ll get to the sequels pretty soon. Hoping that now that the series has been set up, the next ones will pick up a little faster.