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Three Bags Full: A Sheep Detective Story Paperback – June 3, 2008

102 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this refreshingly original detective story from debut German author Swann, a flock of sheep investigates the murder of their beloved shepherd, George Glenn. Leading the effort is Miss Maple, considered the cleverest sheep in the Irish seaside village of Glennkill. She slyly "pretends" to graze while eavesdropping on suspects who come to search George's caravan for something he may have died for. When a long-lost ram recounts an incident that occurred upon his departure years earlier, Miss Maple uncovers the catalyst for George's death. The wooly troupe reveals the crime's solution in a near-Shakespearean mime at the annual "Smartest Sheep in Glennkill" contest. The author's sheep's-eye view and the animals' literal translation of the strange words and deeds of the human species not only create laugh-out-loud humor but also allow the animals occasional flashes of accidental brilliance. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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*Starred Review* A completely original, sparklingly inventive, cleverly written story, first published in Germany, about a flock of Irish sheep who vow to solve the murder of their shepherd, George. George has always treated the flock like humans, reading to them, feeding them the best fodder, protecting them from the local butcher, acknowledging their individual personalities, and even promising to take them to Europe. Imagine the flock's shock when George is found dead in their meadow with a spade stuck in his chest! Led by Miss Maple, the smartest of them all, the sheep decide they must find out who killed George (depriving them of the best--and only--shepherd they've ever had). How they finally achieve this ambitious goal makes for a quirky, humorous, lively, weird, surprisingly dark yet joyous tale that shows how a disparate set of sheepy personalities can work together for the greater good. Although the plot meanders a bit, readers willing to accept the premise will find themselves engaged--rooting for the sheep, marveling at the ingenuity of the author, or simply enjoying the madcap story. Good fun and a fine first novel from a promising new writer. Emily Melton
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 341 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; Reprint edition (June 3, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767927052
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767927055
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (102 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #172,644 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By A. Ross HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on July 20, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Translated from German, set on the Irish coast, and featuring a flock of sheep as protagonists, this debut channels Agatha Christie, Gary Larson (of "Far Side" fame), and "Murder, She Wrote" in a story about the murder of a shepherd and his flock's attempt to unmask his killer and bring about justice. The sleuthing sheep are a great conceit, and one that, for the most part, carries the book through the somewhat meandering and slow-developing story.

Things kick off with the shepherd dead in his field with a spade through his heart. It's certainly amusing to watch the sheep try and understand the reactions of the various humans who discover the body and the reactions the killing provokes amongst the townspeople. In homage to their beloved master and inspired by a detective story he read to them, they vow to see justice done (even if they are somewhat hazy on what that means). The sheep are greatly handicapped by their limited exposure to human affairs, not to mention generally poor memories and short attention spans. However, this is somewhat balanced by their noses, which can scent lies, fear, and other human qualities. Led by the inquisitive ewe Miss Maple (that's Ms. Marple, in case you missed it...), they are soon skulking around the village, peering in windows, and eavesdropping left and right.

The book runs into a little bit of trouble in its need to maintain the sheep's perspective on events -- which makes things somewhat more oblique and drawn out than might be ideal. The central story is also sidetracked somewhat when the long-lost brother of the flock's lead ram mysteriously reappears and starts making all manner of enigmatic statements. But it's all generally entertaining enough to maintain the reader's interest until the end.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Sarah O'Hara on July 13, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This story is a really fun mystery told from the perspective of a few intrepid sheep. They've got a murder to find justice for, and no amount of tempting clover can keep them off the scent. I really did find the book quite clever and the author was good at constructing an engaging mystery.

The best part is how human behavior is interpreted from the sheep perspective. Through the course of their investigation they make some revelations of humans and their motivations that are both sheepy and accurate. Despite the mystery, the book is very relaxing and fun. A perfect choice for readers who love quirky stories from alternate perspectives.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Kara J. Jorges VINE VOICE on August 3, 2007
Format: Hardcover
When I saw this murder mystery about sheep, I had to read it. I was not disappointed. Though its pace is a bit pastoral, it's a pretty good read, and the author did a great job of depicting the dynamics present in a flock of sheep.

Though the flock agrees that George wasn't the best shepherd in the world, he wasn't all that bad, and he was theirs. When his body is found lying in their meadow with a spade stuck through it, they decide they need justice. Working together with their variety of skills, the sheep decide to investigate George's murder themselves. Their suspects include the local butcher, the vicar (amusingly referred to as God by the sheep, as he occupies God's house), George's estranged wife, a neighbor named Beth who was always trying to save his soul, and another shepherd named Gabriel whom the sheep look up to at first, until they find out some very unpleasant things about him. The author did a fine job with the sheep's often warped comprehension of human conversations and actions, as well as creating very amusing interplay among the sheep. It was also a lot of fun watching the reactions of the human characters when they realized that George's sheep were no ordinary flock.

The pace is a bit slow for the first half of the book, and I was a bit disappointed by the outcome of the murder mystery aspect, but overall, it was a very enjoyable, highly creative book. There were several spots where I laughed out loud, and the author did a wonderful job in crafting the personalities of sheep. For a fun, quirky mystery tale quite different from the norm, this book is a winner.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Corinne H. Smith VINE VOICE on July 31, 2007
Format: Hardcover
A flock of sheep finds its shepherd dead, and the members of the flock want to figure out what happened and why. Their only limitation is -- well, that they're sheep instead of humans. In most instances, they can only react to information and events that are presented to them. They can listen to what the humans around them are saying, and they can observe human behavior, but they're hampered by not being able to ask questions or launch a traditional investigation. Miss Maple, said to be the cleverest one in the bunch, leads question and answer sessions among the sheep and keeps prodding them toward conclusions. (She earned her name by licking syrup off the shepherd's sandwiches, of course.) The sheep are not without their own special resources, though. Key among these is the importance of scents and smells, which they can analyze better than any Two Legs can. Gradually they figure out a way to unveil the person they believe to be the murderer -- by making an appearance at the Smartest Sheep in Glennkill contest at the Mad Boar tavern. But will the humans understand them?

Delightfully literal insights abound here, as the text is told from the viewpoint of the sheep. For example, they misunderstand an early conversation among the humans; and from that point on, they think the local minister's name is "God." Though the book bogs down about three-quarters of the way through, another reviewer was right on the mark by saying that the text meanders just like its main characters do. The denouement at the Mad Boar paints a scene of the senses that can only be imagined and laughed at.

This is a magnificent first novel for this German author, and the English translation seems to do justice to the original text, as it is never clumsy or stilted.
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