Thursday, December 9, 2010
Book Review: Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann
Fun fun fun! One day shepherd George Glenn is murdered, and his sheep decide to figure out who did it. Luckily, among his unusual sheep he has the smartest sheep, Miss Maple, and the sheep with excellent memory, Mopple the Whale, along with other assorted talents. As you can probably imagine, sheep generally aren't very bright, so it does take the whole flock to figure things out. Also they mostly must rely on partial conversations they overhear, and a limited knowledge of humans. And an overwhelming obsession with grass and eating, which is distracting for them at times. Sometimes the snippets they overhear make no sense to them, but make a lot of sense to us.
A couple of my favorite parts: a lamb is scared because he saw George's ghost. The sheep reassure him by reminding him that people can't have ghosts because they don't have souls. After all, everyone knows that one's soul is in one's sense of smell. So if humans do turn out to have souls (and therefore ghosts), they'd be tiny. Nothing to worry about.
Two of the villagers are talking about who would have reason to kill someone, and they each rattle off a half-dozen names, including each other, which they both cop to. You never, ever hear that in a mystery or a cop show, where people not only admit that the deceased had a lot of enemies, but those enemies included all present. I laughed out loud.
This book is charming and clever from beginning to end. From the list of characters (sheep) along with dominate features of each one, to the cover illustration with matching numbers so you can see what they look like, great care has been taken with every aspect of this book. Although translated from German, the translation is smooth as butter and completely transparent.
I was sorry George was dead as he sounded like a good man and an excellent, if unusual, shepherd. I'm glad his sheep made sure justice was done, even if they don't understand what the word "justice" means exactly. This book would be a lovely palate cleanser for anyone who likes humorous novels, even if they're not big mystery readers. I loved it.