Three Bags Full: A Sheep Detective Story by Leonie Swann

  • Title: Three Bags Full: A Sheep Detective Story 
  • Author: Fannie Flagg
  • # of Pages: 357
  • Translation: (German into Hebrew) טלי קונס

A witty philosophical murder mystery with a charming twist: the crack detectives are sheep determined to discover who killed their beloved shepherd. glenkill

On a hillside near the cozy Irish village of Glennkill, a flock of sheep gathers around their shepherd, George, whose body lies pinned to the ground with a spade. George has cared devotedly for the flock, even reading them books every night. Led by Miss Maple, the smartest sheep in Glennkill (and possibly the world), they set out to find George’s killer.

Sometimes I like to ignore bad recommendations. It’s an annoying habit best phrased as “I want to see for myself”. These ventures usually end in one of two ways – everyone was wrong or everyone was right. Three Bags Full falls somewhere in between.

I borrowed my copy of Three Bags Full from a relative. After not getting around to it for an entire year, I asked if they wanted it back. They didn’t. A few years previously it was basically handed out for free at a major book event in the city. Later on it turned out my mom had quit reading it in the middle. So, naturally, when I decided it was time to start reading a bit of Hebrew for a change, I chose to go for a rough start. So did the book itself.

George Glenn’s sheep start off their day by finding their shepherd impaled in the middle of the meadow. As they stand there one sheep says that he was never a very good shepherd, which leads to a discussion about which qualities make a great shepherd great. Having solved that question they are all about to disperse, when Miss Maple, the smartest sheep in Glenkill, suddenly asks them if they don’t want to know why he died. “He died because of the spade,” another sheep says. “If you had such a heavy metal object stuck inside you you wouldn’t stay alive either. No wonder he’s dead.”

Thus starts a sheep murder mystery story, with some fantastic sheep and some not so great murder mystery story. Leonie Swann’s anthropomorphic sheep are absolutely wonderful. Their naivete and general cluelessness about the human world lead to lots of confusion (for them) and lots of laughter (for us), whether it’s when they attend a funeral and find out humans have gardens for dead people or when they hear someone say that when George’s will is read to the village it will all finally come out, and plan to go to the reading to figure out what this “it” is and see it when it finally appears. The dialogue between the sheep itself is also fantastic. For example, when Miss Maple points out the importance of the spade and asks the flock what they think of when they think of spades, one sheep replies “Of spades, of course.” Another sheep says she thinks of barley. A third sheep asks why. And the answer? “Why not? I think about barley a lot.” It’s smart and witty and funny. Who needs anything more?

Hopefully no one, because there isn’t much else. The human characters are boring, the story is way too slow, and it doesn’t start getting interesting until page 170. (Another one of my questionable habits is not dropping books in the middle, which leads to the ability to even know what happens in a book that “doesn’t get interesting until page 170”.) Some of it was actually enjoyable, especially when it came to figuring out what obvious, familiar human behaviour that we all understand the sheep are currently trying to interpret, but the writing was very hard to understand at times, and some of it was just plain dull. There are some amusing twists near the end, but by then most readers will probably already be waiting for their “Who killed George Glenn?” Google search to load. In my humble opinion, if reading a novel and its Wikipedia summary lead to the same degree of satisfaction, we’ve got a problem.

At the end of the day, Three Bags Full had an outstanding cast with a mediocre storyline. For proficient readers with lots of patience, the sheep make up for everything else, providing a well written comedy. For those who need their books to have a gripping plot, maybe not.



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