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The Department of Sensitive Crimes: A Detective Varg Novel

Review

The Department of Sensitive Crimes: A Detective Varg Novel

The master of the gentle mystery kicks off a brand new series with an appealing cast of four Swedish detectives whose task it is to resolve crimes of the sort that other policemen would find unworthy of attention. These events hover somewhere between misdemeanors, such as stabbing someone in the knee (accidentally?) and assault and battery, or reporting someone as a missing person when the absent individual is a figment of one’s imagination. Or is it? Why is business falling off in a spa owned by a relative of a highly placed city commissioner at a remote beach recreational area? Could a werewolf be stalking the premises?

Smith leads us on a whimsical romp through three sensitive crimes of a philosophical nature. All are solved in tidy Swedish order by the Sensitive Crimes Division as Senior Detective Ulf Varg heads an exclusive four-person cadre. Varg is assisted by efficient paper pusher Carl Holgersson; Erik Nykvist, who would rather be fly fishing; and the insightful Anna Bengsdotter, who may harbor feelings for Ulf. And there’s the uniformed officer Blomquist, who yearns to become a detective and strives to prove his worth.

"THE DEPARTMENT OF SENSITIVE CRIMES receives a dewy-eyed hug for its wit, wisdom and philosophical compassion. If it is possible, Smith has outdone himself, and that is quite the accomplishment."

This is the perfect foil for another enchanting Alexander McCall Smith series, which fans will relish as our prolific author creates what easily could become a rival to his No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency novels. Detective Patience Ramotswe and her memorable secretary, Grace Makutsi, ended up on a popular television program at the height of the Africa-based series. This fan wishes that she had the money, youthful vigor and talent to bring this new book to the streaming world of modern-day television. Yes, it’s that good. The charm of it being situated in a foreign country starring people with totally unpronounceable names only goes to underscore the genius of Smith’s universal and gentle appeal to human kindness.

We book lovers all read for many and diverse reasons. The stalwart scholarly may stick to only information and knowledge. Some seek escape through detective and spy thrillers, while some crave nonfiction biographies and history. Others, myself among them, prefer to go the historical fiction route. Sci-fi and fantasy, romance, horror, metaphysics --- the mind boggles. The genres are so vast and broad that I won’t even try to list them further.

My book-reading friends and relatives know me well enough to be aware of a personal habit of mine: that of hugging and stroking a book when I close the cover after the last page. I call such readers “huggers,” and THE DEPARTMENT OF SENSITIVE CRIMES receives a dewy-eyed hug for its wit, wisdom and philosophical compassion. If it is possible, Smith has outdone himself, and that is quite the accomplishment.

This book will occupy a permanent space on my groaning bookshelves. I look forward to the next one.

Reviewed by Roz Shea on April 26, 2019

The Department of Sensitive Crimes: A Detective Varg Novel
by Alexander McCall Smith

  • Publication Date: April 16, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction, Humor, Mystery
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon
  • ISBN-10: 1524748218
  • ISBN-13: 9781524748210