Chris Nashawaty
June 21, 2002 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Any novel that pretentiously kicks off with an epigraph quoting the Bible, Nietzsche, and doom-rocker Nick Cave already has a strike against it. But fear not, Griffiths recovers quickly and beautifully. Set in rural Wales — and featuring several chapters written in thick-as-stout Welsh dialect — Sheepshagger tells the harrowing story of Ianto, a sort of modern-day Lenny from Of Mice and Men. Right off, we learn from his sozzled mates that Ianto is a murderer. But as the novel unspools and different points of view are introduced, we come to see that he is also a victim whose farm has been stolen and turned into a yuppie vacation home. Ianto may be a savage and a simpleton, but in Griffiths’ hands, his Old Testament rage seems almost understandable.

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