Three Bags Full: Leonie Swann's novel of Sheepish Detection
My thanks to the group Literary Exploration. Without the group's selection of Three Bags FThree Bags Full: Leonie Swann's novel of Sheepish Detection
My thanks to the group Literary Exploration. Without the group's selection of Three Bags Fullas our group read for March, 2012, I doubt I would have ever picked up this little gem, even though I had spotted it on the shelves of our local Barnes & Noble.
A detective novel where sheep are the detectives? The thought of it makes one feel a bit, well, sheepish.
However, Leonie Swann pulls off this woolly caper with style and flair. When George, the shepherd, is found murdered, the local villagers of Killain don't seem to take much notice. But his flock, who has a better understanding of human nature than a lot of humans are determined to see justice done.
It's no small feat, for sheep have a problem with forgetfulness. However, each member of the flock has strengths and weaknesses. Where one member is lacking, another member of the flock has what is needed. In the case of memory, Mopple, the Whale, a constant grazer whose girth gives him his name, is THE Memory Sheep.
George was a good shepherd who provided clean water, proper fodder, and protection for each of his flock. He even read aloud to them, including a detective novel. Miss Maple, Ms. Swann's sly allusion to Agatha Christie's Miss Marple, is the brains of the flock who knows the significance of clues and sets out to find who murdered their precious George who had promised to take all of them to Europe. He was a good sheperd, indeed.
Personally, I've never given sheep much consideration. Oh, I've watched a flock of sheep graze in a clover covered meadow while taking a travel break. It was a peaceful, pastoral scene. And I confess that I've a taste for lamb, properly prepared. Saints preserve us, one of the flock might say. But, otherwise, I just don't think much about sheep. Probably not many of us do. Perhaps that is why Leonie Swann's sheep's tale has been translated into thirty-two languages to date. It's a rare little anthropomorphic read with a wry look at human nature.
Thanks to Ms. Swann, I've learned much about sheep behavior that makes me a little ashamed to be merely human. Each member of the flock looks out after the other. We humans may rise to the occasion from time to time, but we fail miserably on a daily basis.
Sheep are cognizant of God and contemplate on the nature of souls. They correctly observe that some of God's representatives do not concern themselves with a lost sheep, such as poor George and don't seem to mind too terribly that some human pinned George to the ground with a spade through his middle.
Sheep do not gossip. The villagers of Killain are gossipers non pareil, speculating on why George was content to live alone in his small caravan, with an estranged wife, a possible mistress, and are constantly curious about whatever remained locked in George's caravan. The human inhabitants pruriently speculate on what splendors in the grass George engaged in, not only with a purported mistress, but even his favorite black ram, Othello.
The village Constable is named Holmes. However, much to his consternation he is no Sherlock. His clearance rate of crime in the County is nil. He's much more concerned with taking his Guinness at the local pub.
Then there's the nature of grass. It has two distinct meanings, one for sheep and one for humans. Humans are more interested in Cannabis Sativa L. Sheep are more concerned with grass of a different nature, sweet fodder for fuel. For them, that's enough.
Swann's novel is continually entertaining, comedic in nature, but also delving into the more tragic nature of George's life. It is a delightful diversion that reminds us that murder will out in the end, as happens in all detective novels. In this novel, the solution is a denoument that just maybe will make us a bit more mindful of the lost sheep in our own flock.
With Swann's great success in her debut novel, I'm so pleased to know that a sequel already exists in its original German edition, book:Garou: Ein Schaf-Thriller|7027202]. Either I'll have to wait for the English translation or break out meine Deutsche-English dictionary. I do know I won't have to wait for a recommendation to read it.
Solid 4 Star Read for originality, something completely different...more