Book Review: Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann

Three Bags Full: A Sheep Detective Story
Leonie Swann
Flying Dolphin Press, 2007
ISBN 0385521111

Suppose you were walking down a country lane someday and came across a flock of sheep. What would you do? Hope they wouldn’t suddenly decide to stampede and mow you down? Ignore them and walk past? Not me. I’d be checking out each one to see who is Miss Maple or Othello or Mopple the Whale or any of the other delightful sheep in this book.

When I first picked it up, I thought this would be just another cute animal sleuth mystery. After only a few pages, I knew I was wrong.

This flock of charming Irish sheep finds their shepherd murdered and, being a rather educated group, they decide they need to solve his murder. George, you see, used to read to them every night and they’ve learned quite a lot about humans although, unfortunately, he never finished reading their first detective novel so they’re not entirely sure what they’re doing. Led by Miss Maple, they set out to do their best detecting, with shades of Sherlock Holmes and Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot, determined to find the killer since the village humans don’t seem to be working at it very hard.

The mystery here is fairly slight with a neat twist at the very funny denouement but the character development of the sheep is wonderful, equal to some of the best human character development I’ve read. You just can’t help liking these animals and wanting to know more and more about them individually. They have much more interesting backstories than you might imagine and you’ll come away from this book being absolutely sure there’s a lot more to the woolly beasts than you ever dreamed all those times you’ve driven past them in a field. I bet you’ll never ignore sheep again.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2007