Review: The Big Sheep by Robert Kroese

After Wanderers, I needed something light. A palate cleanser, like a slice of ginger after a particularly strong piece of sushi. Michael Gallowglas sat across from me while I browsed Audible. He recommended Barsk, which I talked about last time. Audible’s recommendations came up with The Big Sheep, which I purchased at the same time as Barsk.

The title alone might have been enough to entice me. I read Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep last year, and though it is a product of its time with its casual sexism and racism, I really enjoyed the noir setting and gritty feel. It felt like a black and white movie in book form.

The Big Sheep is obviously a play on the title of the Chandler book, but it doesn’t have much else in common with the older story. The Big Sheep is set in the not-too-distant future, with flying cars and parts of L.A. descended into urban chaos. The protagonist, Blake Fowler, is a junior partner to a Sherlock-esque private investigator named Erasmus Keane. Keane insists that he be called a “phenomenological inquisitor.” Where Chandler’s story defines hard-boiled, taking itself seriously from cover to cover, Kroese created an action comedy.

My TL;DR review: The Big Sheep is mostly light and fun, sometimes suffering from tonal dissonance. It’s a 7/10 for me. It’s short enough that it doesn’t overstay its welcome, and I recommend reading it if you can do so without taking it too seriously.

SPOILERS BELOW THIS POINT

I’m not going to go into too much in the way of spoilers, but still.

Also, I seem to keep my nitpicks for the spoiler section of all these reviews. Maybe that should be my warning? Oh well… you’ve been warned.

I mentioned tonal dissonance. The plot and the characters are painted with a bit of silliness, from the “phenomenological inquisitor” title to Keane duck-walking around a sheep near the beginning of the story and declaring that he’s measured the creature’s soul. Intermixed with the humor are scenes where the protagonist outright kills a couple of folks. During one scene in a park, to prove that he’s serious, Fowler shoots a bodyguard in the foot. It’s pretty well established at this point that the bodyguards in this book aren’t part of the larger plot. They’re basically bystanders trying to do their job.

The author overplayed the physical beauty of the damsel in distress, Priya Mistry, to the point that I think female readers might take issue with it. He doesn’t go so far as to describe her “breasting boobily” but it’s not far off, with Fowler being so dumbstruck by her that he can’t even hear what she’s saying when he looks at her. He has to spend an entire scene looking past her.

There is just a dash of passive sexism in this story, like an aftertaste from Chandler’s story. Only one woman has much in the way of agency, and that’s in the form of the main villain.

Like I said, it’s short enough that it doesn’t overstay its welcome, and I did have fun with the story. Kroese knew what story he was writing, and he did a good job. I didn’t have any problem with his craft, and it’s entirely possible I’m being overly critical around the feminist issues.

I wanted a lighter story, something I wouldn’t have to work that hard at, and this was exactly what I needed.

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