“Justice!” bleated Othello.
“Justice!” bleated the other sheep. And so it was decided that George Glenn’s sheep themselves would solve the wicked murder of their shepherd.” from Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann
The mystery genre is full of animal detectives, mostly cats and dogs. As I was wandering through the library one day, randomly touching the books, I saw one titled Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann. It was originally published in German in 2006 and translated to English.
Thinking it might be a mystery with sheep in it I picked it up. It turned out to be a book about a flock Irish sheep who solve the suspicious death of their shepherd. They do this on their own, without the help of humans, because they do not have a very high opinion of humans.
“Maple thought optimistically that human beings, on their good days, weren’t much dimmer than sheep. Or at least, not much dimmer than dim sheep.”
After reading the first page I was hooked. After I kept telling my husband what the sheep were saying I decided we needed to read it together. So I read Three Bags Full out loud to him and it consumed our lives. We started wondering what Miss Maple, Mopple the Whale, (the sheep have fantastic names) and the others were thinking about at random times of the day. We also started to see life differently, not necessarily like a sheep, but with a different viewpoint. It is safe to say I cried at the end of this book, not because it was sad, but because it was wonderful. Not bad for a mystery written by a woman who, as far as I can tell from her bio, has no experience with sheep.
“You shouldn’t believe what you don’t understand. You should understand what you believe.”
If you have ever spent time with sheep than you will get much more out of this book because people who spend time around sheep understand what they are thinking much better than people who just see pretty pictures of sheep. And that is important in this book. This book is a murder mystery, but because it is from the point of view of a flock of sheep you see the world the way they see it.
You may think, being a human, that a certain clue is important, but the sheep ignore it because they are sheep and some things are not as important as eating grass. However, if you read the book thinking like a sheep you will be so sucked into the story that you will hope it never ends.
“No sheep may leave the flock,” he said to anyone who would listen, “unless he comes back again.”
The book has two endings, the conclusion of the mystery and the conclusion of the sheep’s individual stories. I didn’t find the ending of the mystery very satisfying (again because the sheep just accepted it and moved on) but I enjoyed how the sheep’s stories ended. Sheep being sheep they didn’t get much from these conclusions, but for the reader it was very gratifying.
I loved this book. I wouldn’t be reviewing it if I didn’t. If you love sheep, or if you think you know sheep, or if you love stories about Ireland, or if you love mysteries that are not formulaic, or if you like mysteries with animal detectives, or if you just like a good story I would check out Three Bags Full. It’s just not baaaaad.
“The sea looked as if it had been licked clean, blue and clear and smooth, and there were a few woolly little clouds in the sky. Legend said that these clouds were sheep who had simply wandered over the cliff tops one day, special sheep who now went on grazing in the sky and were never shorn. In any case, they were a good sign.”