Even in the crowded arena of physically challenged detectives, the protagonists of Swann's novel are wholly unique. When it comes to solving murder, four legs and a fleecy coat trump Poirot's cane and Ironside's wheelchair in this insightful, giggle-inducing, wholly inventive mystery.
One morning, a beloved shepherd, George, is found in a meadow, a shovel embedded in his body and a suspicious hoof print on his chest. Miss Maple, the most intelligent member of the flock, dispatches her fellow detectives to dig up the dirt on the villagers (while snacking on some conveniently located geraniums along the way). Their suspects include the hated butcher, the local Bible-basher, the shepherd of a nearby flock, and George's recently returned prodigal daughter, among others.
This seamless translation by Anthea Bell miraculously puts the reader, like a wolf, in sheep's clothing. The world is seen (and smelled) from a sheep's perspective, making the traditional roundup of clues completely fresh (and often confounding!). Still, a sheep's mind is expected to wander toward greener pastures, and Swann must play the dual role of keeping her wooly detectives on track while holding readers in suspense, a balancing act she achieves beautifully, liberally seasoning her narrative with clever literary references. We suspect we will be hearing a lot more in the future from Leonie Swann, a writer who makes it easy for us to separate the sheep from the goats.