Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann (2007, Flying Dolphin Press)
The "cozy mystery" genre really isn't my cup of tea, laced with arsenic or not. German author Leonie Swann's Three Bags Full, however, uses a gimmick that was nearly impossible for me to resist: crime-solving sheep.
When their shepherd is found with a shovel sticking out of him, the sheep of George Glenn's flock reluctantly endeavor to discover who in the tiny Irish village of Glennkill killed him. Lead by Miss Maple, the smartest sheep in Glennkill (and possibly the entire world), the investigation draws in the rest of the flock: Sir Richfield, Othello, Mopple the Whale, and many others. The resulting adventure is moving, comical, and strangely enlightening.
The only downfall to Swann's story is that sometimes the prose gets so wrapped up in telling the story through the eyes of the sheep that it becomes confusing and disorienting to human readers. It's hard to say whether this is due to the actual writing or the translation (Three Bags Full was originally published in German, but these spots are, thankfully, few and far between. Swann runs the gamut of comedy, drama, tragedy, and suspense, and always keeps the reader guessing as to the real answers to the mystery right up until the end.
Fans of british mysteries will find Three Bags Full to be familiar territory with a new and interesting twist. All but the most vehemently anti-mystery readers are sure to find something here to warm up to as well. With a debut like this, Leonie Swann is definitely an author to keep an eye on.
Rating: 3 Stars