Book Review – Three Bags Full

The detectives of the story are sheep – yes, the woolly kind – in Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann.

Miss Maple the ewe is the cleverest sheep in Glennkill, Ireland. But can she solve the mystery of who murdered the flock’s shepherd, George? This definitely isn’t your usual mystery…one blurb described it as “Agatha Christie writes Wind in the Willows”, and that’s a pretty good description! Though I compare it more to Watership Down, since the author did a good job looking at the world through a real sheep’s eyes.

The townspeople are curious about the murder, but his sheep are even more so. They use their limited resources to listen, collect clues, and discuss the mystery. Though the sheep can understand English and seem very intelligent, they still see the world through a very unique sheepy lens. Like Watership Down, where Richard Adams made you feel like you were in the mind of a rabbit, this book puts you in the mind of a prey animal and their special viewpoint of the world. Each sheep has a distinct personality, and each one contributes to solving the mystery in their own way. (I drew a picture of my favorite character, Zora.)

My only complaint is a small one: it was really hard to figure out the time period the book was set in. At first I was pretty sure it was the ’40s or ’50s, but then a few anachronisms happened, and near the end it was confirmed to be in the 1990s. Not a huge deal, except that for a mystery it helps to know what level of technology is available.

One neat thing this book did was to teach me about a concept I’ve never heard of before: dolmens! Dolmens are huge “tables” made of giant blocks of stone, built thousands of years ago as what we believe to be burial chambers. They’re all over Britain and parts of Europe, and in this story the sheep have one in their pasture. I’ve heard of Stonehenge of course, but I didn’t know that these structures were common! Very cool.

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