“The Dark Horse”

Craig Johnson

I’ve never been a big fan of westerns – nothing against them, really, just never got into the genre. Closest I’ve been is Westworld, which means it took a more-than-healthy dose of science fiction added on to catch my eye.

In this case, there was no such science fiction addition; knowing as little about the genre as I actually do, I suppose it’s possible that making it a mystery counts as some amount of genre crossover?

I did quite enjoy it, though. Looking at the cover now, I see that this is the fifth book in the series, but for most of the book I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything by having skipped the first four. There’s a few references to past events here and there, and likely I would’ve known many of the characters a bit better, but Johnson did a good job of covering who everyone is as the book went that I didn’t feel left behind.

It was actually a pretty fun mystery to read, as well—having just come off a “my brain is full of COVID” Scooby Doo binge, it sure did a better job at keeping me guessing than Scooby manages. I didn’t figure out what was going on in this book until the book told me, but it’s because I wasn’t pulling at all the strings—I feel like if I’d been taking notes on the right things, I would’ve been able to solve the mystery a bit earlier.1

All in all, I had fun reading this! A nice little mystery, the protagonist is surprisingly fun given that he’s trying to be a grumpy old coot most of the time, and it does a good enough job conveying the setting that I feel like I’ve got dust on my skin. Check it out.2

  1. That doesn’t tend to be the case with Scooby-Doo, or at least not the “and Guess Who” iteration, where Velma finds a clue, shares with nobody, and builds the whole case around what we, the audience, never got to see.
  2. This is a Bookshop affiliate link – if you buy it from here, I get a little bit of commission. It won’t hurt my feelings if you buy it elsewhere; honestly, I’d rather you check it out from your local library, or go to a local book store. I use Bookshop affiliate links instead of Amazon because they distribute a significant chunk of their profits to small, local book stores.

“Wireless and More Steam-Powered Adventures”

Alex Acks
I was genuinely surprised that I don’t have another review to reference here — I would swear that I wrote one about the book where these characters were first introduced, Murder on the Titania, but apparently not.1
So, the introduction: in the Sherlock Holmes style, very vaguely. Zombies, and steampunk, and all the other internet buzzwords abound, but it works surprisingly well together. The primary arc of the first story can be summed up with the image of a Native American man and a Latina woman rolling their eyes as an elderly white man tries to convince himself he’s the hero because he’s slightly less of an imperialist than the bad guy.
And if that hasn’t sold you on the concept, I’m not sure what will. It’s a fun little read, check it out.

  1. I was actually entirely relying on being able to search in my archives here to find the name of that book, but no dice; I had to look it up on the author’s lovely, exhaustive list of everything they’ve written.