I love the combination of science fiction and mystery, and Robert Kroese’s The Big Sheep is a perfect example of a science fiction detective story, with humor to boot.
The story begins with the mysterious Keane and his partner Blake (our narrator) reporting to a genetics laboratory where a number of enhanced sheep have been stolen. Around the same time, they are hired by TV celebrity Priya Mistry, who believes her life is in danger but might just be paranoid. It will not surprise readers that these two cases quickly become intertwined.
Keane, holding his chin in his hand, began walking around the sheep in a stooped posture that reminded me of a waddling duck. The sheep was nearly as tall as he was, and was looking back at Keane with scientific detachment. It was hard to say which was the odder-looking specimen, the quadrupedal area rug standing in stoic silence on the tiled floor of the lab or the lanky, balding biped creeping awkwardly around it.
This is a fast-paced, fun story with witty dialogue and an interesting plot. Kroese is clearly paying homage to a number of science fiction and mystery writers, notably Philip K. Dick. He acknowledges in a recent Tor article that the name is based on Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep (which may seem obvious). I can’t comment on that, not having read it, but I can say this book has a great noir-ish feel to it. Also Keane has a distinct Sherlock Holmes feel. It’s well written and I really enjoyed the way the story unfolded. I liked that our two detectives face one ethical dilemma after another and just keep plowing forward. I also liked how Blake describes being completely star-struck by Mistry (he can barely look at her) but he gradually gets to know her.
To say any more would give away too much of the story. I was a little worried that this book might be too quirky for me, but it was a perfect baalance (typo accidental but I’m keeping it). Kroese doesn’t sacrifice plot for humor, which I really appreciated. I would have liked more insight into the characters, particularly Blake and Keane, but I’m sensing there’s a sequel coming. I look forward to it.
Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book from publisher St. Martins Press/Thomas Dunne Books. The book published June 28, 2016.