When Rob Kroese he gave me a copy of The Big Sheep to review, I thought it would just be another book that I would cross off of my list and move on.
Anyway, this book was quite a surprise. No, seriously, it was a shock. I was expecting something over the top and insane, like The Fury Clock. This was one is more like if Jasper Fforde, Tom Holt, or Terry Pratchett went out and wrote a Raymond Chandler novel.
Los Angeles of 2039 is a baffling and bifurcated place. After the Collapse of 2028, a vast section of LA, the Disincorporated Zone, was disowned by the civil authorities, and became essentially a third world country within the borders of the city. Navigating the boundaries between DZ and LA proper is a tricky task, and there’s no one better suited than eccentric private investigator Erasmus Keane. When a valuable genetically altered sheep mysteriously goes missing from Esper Corporation’s labs, Keane is the one they call.
But while the erratic Keane and his more grounded partner, Blake Fowler, are on the trail of the lost sheep, they land an even bigger case. Beautiful television star Priya Mistry suspects that someone is trying to kill her – and she wants Keane to find out who. When Priya vanishes and then reappears with no memory of having hired them, Keane and Fowler realize something very strange is going on. As they unravel the threads of the mystery, it soon becomes clear that the two cases are connected – and both point to a sinister conspiracy involving the most powerful people in the city. Saving Priya and the sheep will take all of Keane’s wits and Fowler’s skills, but in the end, they may discover that some secrets are better left hidden.
Despite the opening paragraph, I would not even consider slandering this book with the label of dystopia. In this future, there was a problem, everything fell apart for a while, it was never entirely fixed, and government, being government, just walled off the problem area and declared it fixed. There’s a reason it’s called the DZ.
But, in short, the bad parts of LA still suck. No one is surprised.
This was incredibly well put together. I was even surprised at how much the city itself was a character. Hell, the DZ is a character before you even get to the wretched place.
The jokes are sly without being overly cute. The sheep they’re trying to find is called “Mary.” So of course, they suspect that there’s something about Mary, and part of the problem is that she doesn’t have a little lamp. We won’t even get into the titanium shoulder and the crematorium. You have to experience that one for yourself.
Part of the nice thing about this story is that Kroese knows what the reader will conclude as they work through the mystery. And of course, like any good mystery writer, he cuts ahead of them, and pushes the reader down a flight of stairs. Not only does he offer what the reader is thinking as the solution, he also debunks it within five pages after that.
So, yeah, this was fun. And how can you not enjoy someone named Erasmus Keane?
Keane and Fowler follow the Holmes and Watson school of detective work. Or perhaps Doctor Who. Every great detective in literature seems to need a handler, and Keane is no exception. Unlike needing Archie Goodwin to make Nero Wolfe work, or Watson to tell the stories that Holmes couldn’t narrate to save his life, Keane almost needs Fowler to keep him tethered to the planet. They make for an interesting team. Though unlike Arthur Conan Doyle, Kroese doesn’t cheat. Fowler sees everything Keane sees, just doesn’t see the big picture, which Kroese puts together quite well.
You know what? Just put it on the Sad Puppies 5 list right now. Kroese’s The Big Sheep, Marina Fontaine, and John C. Wright. Yes, I’m compiling my list already, because these books have been amazing and awe inspiring. And with my brain, I’ll probably forget them come December.