I am easily distracted by titles, and this one was no exception, luring me in with the promise of odd Swedish crimes. While it turned out not exactly what I was expecting, I quickly became caught up in the characters’ lives and the escapades that came their way (such as the search for the imaginary boyfriend). A lovely introduction to McCall Smith’s work, if you’re not already familiar with it.
In the Swedish criminal justice system, certain cases are considered especially strange and difficult, in Malmö, the dedicated detectives who investigate these crimes are members of an elite squad known as the Sensitive Crimes Division.
These are their stories.
The first case: the small matter of a man stabbed in the back of the knee. Who would perpetrate such a crime and why? Next: a young woman's imaginary boyfriend goes missing. But how on earth do you search for someone who doesn't exist? And in the final investigation: eerie secrets that are revealed under a full moon may not seem so supernatural in the light of day. No case is too unusual, too complicated, or too, well insignificant for this squad to solve.
The team: Ulf “the Wolf” Varg, the top dog, thoughtful and diligent; Anna Bengsdotter, who's in love with Varg's car (and possibly Varg too); Carl Holgersson, who likes nothing more than filling out paperwork; and Erik Nykvist, who is deeply committed to fly fishing.
With the help of a rather verbose local police officer, this crack team gets to the bottom of cases other detectives can't or won't bother to handle. Equal parts hilarious and heartening, The Department of Sensitive Crimes is a tour de farce from a true master.
About the Author
ALEXANDER McCALL SMITH is the author of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency novels and of a number of other series and stand-alone books. His works have been translated into more than forty languages and have been bestsellers throughout the world. He lives in Scotland.
“Tucking into a brand-new mystery series by Alexander McCall Smith is a lazy-dazy pleasure . . . What binds the stories are the tight relationships of Varg and his colleagues and their hilariously human crotchets.” —Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review “Alexander McCall Smith’s engaging book tackles bizarre activity and teeters between comedy and pathos.” —Tom Nolan, The Wall Street Journal “Droll, droll, droll.” —John Timpane, The Philadelphia Inquirer “Depend on the author of the “No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency” and “44 Scotland Street” novels to make even a Nordic Noir mystery delightful.” —Tom Beer, Newsday
“McCall Smith . . . extends his gift for comic situations and insightful commentary to a projected series set in Sweden . . . Detective Varg promises to be a complex series character, and the department itself looks certain to deliver more oddball yet poignant cases.” —Booklist (starred review) “The celebrated Scottish storyteller has turned his pen to Scandi-crime, setting his latest series with Detective Ulf ‘The Wolf’ Varg heading up a department of singular characters in the Swedish city of Malmo. It’s as if Fox Mulder, Lisbeth Salander’s maiden aunt, and Kurt Wallander collaborated on a new unit, and it’s great fun.” —Bethanne Patrick, The Washington Post (10 Books to Read in April)
“The author of more than 80 books has not lost his literary touch, but his latest account of the doings at Sweden’s Department of Sensitive Crimes hits a new high of hilarity.” —Muriel Dobbin, The Washington Times
“With astonishing heart and mind, Alexander McCall Smith launches a bold and original new series. With The Department of Sensitive Crimes, he invents a new and compassionate genre: Scandi Blanc. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry, but in the end I did both. I'm already looking forward to the next one.” —Alan Bradley, best-selling author of the Flavia de Luce series
“Appealing . . . The interpersonal relationships McCall Smith so sensitively portrays and the ethical issues he raises matter far more than the sleuthing. Fans of gentle mysteries will look forward to the sequel.” —Publishers Weekly