Three Bags Full

Last updated
Three Bags Full
Three Bags Full cover.jpg
Hardcover edition
Author Leonie Swann
Original title'Glennkill: Ein Schafskrimi'
TranslatorAnthea Bell
Language German
Genre Detective novel
PublisherTransworld Publishers Limited, Doubleday Publishing, Randomhouse Inc.
Publication date
Published in English
Pages368 pp
ISBN 0-385-60994-9
OCLC 64312670

Three Bags Full: A Sheep Detective Story (original German title: Glennkill: Ein Schafskrimi) is 2005 novel by Leonie Swann. It is a detective story featuring a flock of anthropomorphic Irish sheep out to solve the murder of their shepherd. Written originally in German, the novel became an international bestseller, and has been translated into more than 30 languages. [1]



In the Irish village of Glenkill, George Glenn is a shepherd who is a loner, estranged from his wife, and is fond only of his sheep. Every day, after he lets them out to graze, he reads to them from romance adventure novels and textbooks on sheep diseases. At the start of the book, the sheep find George dead, pinned to the ground by a spade. The rattled sheep decide that they must find his killer. This turns into a difficult task, as sheep can’t talk to people; and though they understand the human conversations they listen in on, like the one between George’s widow Kate and Bible-basher Beth Jameson, they do not always understand the details. Not even the smartest of them, Miss Maple, Othello and Mopple the Whale, can understand the human's behaviour, and are particularly confused by the neighbourhood priest, though they conclude that his name is evidently God. They are afraid to confront suspects like butcher Abraham Rackham, and are suspicious but fearful of their new shepherd Gabriel O’Rourke, who is raising a flock of sheep for slaughter. And even after a series of providential discoveries and brainwaves reveals the answer to the mystery, they still have to figure out how to let the humans know.

List of sheep characters

List of human characters

Below is a list of notable human characters and their roles. Contains plot details.


Largely humorous in character, the novel displays a strong knowledge of sheep behavior, biology, husbandry and breeds (the merino and hebridean are present, among others). [2] [3] Using the perspective of the flock, Swann makes comedic jabs at human character and institutions. [4] [5]


According to Kirkus Reviews , the sheep characters outshine the human ones, and "the sustained tone of straight-faced wonderment is magical". [6] The Guardian review praised Swann for "gnawing" and "wriggling" her way into a gap in the anthropomorphized animal detective novel, thereby succeeding to avoid hackneyed "gumshoe" tropes. [7] The Independent , in a rave review, found the sheep to be a successful and appealing parable for humanity, and concluded that the book has "charm without whimsy, and is touching without being sentimental". [8] Publishers Weekly called Three Bags Full "refreshingly original", and observed that Swann'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". [9]

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  1. Brunskill, Ian (2006-06-03). "Graze anatomy". The Times . London. Retrieved 2008-01-13.
  2. Jakeman, Jane (June 23, 2006). "Four legs good, two legs bad". The Independent . London. Retrieved 2008-01-13.
  3. Ephron, Hallie (June 24, 2007). "Sherlocks in sheep's clothing". The Boston Globe . Retrieved 2008-01-13.
  4. Sansom, Ian (July 22, 2006). "A shaggy sheep story". The Guardian . London. Retrieved 2008-01-13.
  5. Vishrup, Amy (June 21, 2007). "Books Newly Released". The New York Times . Retrieved 2008-01-13.
  6. THREE BAGS FULL | Kirkus Reviews.
  7. "Review: Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann". the Guardian. 2006-07-22. Retrieved 2020-10-13.
  8. "Three Bags Full, by Leonie Swann, trans Anthea Bell". The Independent. 2006-06-23. Retrieved 2020-10-13.
  9. "Three Bags Full: A Sheep Detective Story". Retrieved 2020-10-13.