Three Bags Full: A Sheep Detective Story (2005)
Translated from the German by Anthea Bell
Flying Dolphin Press
This is what I’m reading right now and it’s one of the funniest books of 2009 so far. When shepherd George Glenn is murdered, it’s his flock of sheep that comes to the rescue to try and find the killer. Three Bags Full is different from anything I’ve ever read. The sheep are great characters. There’s nineteen sheep in all and every one have a personality very different from the others. With Miss Maple, the smartest sheep, Mopple the Whale who can remember anything you tell him to and is always hungry, and Sir Ritchfield, the lead ram, the flock set off to try and understand humans and their ways while finding out who murdered George.
There are plenty of literary references such as Othello, the black ram with a mysterious past, Melmoth the Wanderer, and more. The reader figures out what happens along with the sheep and the sheep’s observations keeps the reader wanting more. I’ve spent most of my free time this week reading this book. I can’t believe this is Swann’s first and only book out right now.
Maple knew them all; she had seen the younger sheep grow up; she herself had grown up with the older sheep. When she was still a lamb the escapades of Ritchfield and his twin, Melmoth, had kept the flock all agog. It was so long since Ritchfield last mentioned him that Maple had thought he’d forgotten him. Now she felt uneasy. The air was perfect: a cool wind blew off the sea, the meadow was fragrant. All the same, the whole place suddenly smelled of death, new death and old, almost forgotten death. Maple began to graze.