I'm not sure what to say about this one. I can't say I'm particularly well read in Mark Twain's works, but I've read enough that I expected a level of satiric humor that I didn't immediately find. In fact, the story started out rather dark, tragic and confronting. About 10% of the way through, a hint of absurdity, but still dark.
It's not until midway through Part II of the story that it started to really feel like something written by Twain, and mind you, I've still not seen a hint of Sherlock Holmes. I was starting to feel robbed. It's also at this point that it sort of feels like Twain lost the reigns of the story; it scatters all over the place with suddenly changing POVs and focus. Not so scattered, though, that it wasn't apparent where Twain was going, the set-up for the twist of irony.
Then, finally, Sherlock Holmes enters the scene. Twain is known for his scathing satire, so it's no surprise that Holmes does not come out looking like the paragon he is, but at the same time, Twain is skewering everyone else too, and somehow it makes it easier to sit back and laugh at the absurdity of it all. Even though the plot had lost most of its focus, it was still the most enjoyable part of the story for me.
I'm glad I discovered this book and story - I thoroughly enjoyed it - but it's clear why it's not a well-known work of Twain's. It's worth reading for Holmes fans for the sheer novelty, if nothing else, and I adore my copy. But for those without the sentimental streak for Holmes, it's best experienced via Gutenberg or an anthology of Twain's work.
This fits the Kill Your Darlings game card for Crime Scene: Dark Tower, as it takes place out west and is written by an American author.