Posted: Friday, December 20, 2013, 8:34 am
Sheep detectives. What more motivation do you need?
A few months ago, I was reading a blog post about "quirky books you may have missed" and came across the description for Three Bags Full: A Sheep Detective Story by Leonie Swann. Translated from the German by Anthea Bell, Three Bags Full is "a witty philosophical murder mystery with a charming twist: the crack detectives are sheep determined to discover who killed their beloved shepherd." If you can resist a book where the protagonists are sheep detectives, you are stronger-willed than I am.
Three Bags Full is funny, thoughtful and thoroughly engaging.
Set in a small Irish village, a flock of sheep awake one day to discover their shepherd, George Glenn, dead with a spade through his chest. George, we soon learn, was no ordinary shepherd. He read to the sheep each day, mostly love stories featuring women named Pamela, but also detective stories and a book about sheep ailments (not a flock favorite). As a result, George Glenn's sheep are smart and literate. They recognize George took good care of them and feel it's their duty to solve his murder.
Led by Miss Maple, arguably the smartest sheep in all the world, they set out on their mission armed with limited knowledge gleaned mostly from the books George shared. This is what keeps Three Bags Full from being too cute and, dare I say it, fluffy.
Leonie Swann holds back when anthropomorphizing the sheep. They can communicate with each other and understand human speech, but they are utterly baffled by human behavior. Additionally, they are distracted by a good patch of grass, fall asleep at inopportune times and have a hard time seeing their cause through to the end.
But see it through they do, in spectacular fashion, and in discovering who killed George, they show us just how confusing a human flock can be.