The Department of Sensitive Crimes by Alexander McCall Smith

The Department of Sensitive Crimes

Alexander McCall Smith

No case is too unusual or complicated for the Sensitive Crimes Division to solve. 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.

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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.

Advance Galley Reviews

I enjoyed this offering by Alexander McCall Smith, focusing on the Sensitive Crimes Division in the Malmö police department. The story chronicles Varg and his coworkers as they go about their duties in the catchall of crimes department. The cases range from odd and strange to over the top such as, the missing imaginary boyfriend case. Said cases are relayed with a dry wit and slow meandering pace. The mundane is viewed with introspection and numerous segues off topic. A fun ride along with this group of detectives and their quirks and oddball antics. May not be everyone's cup of tea, but definitely recommend.

I've taken a break from A. McCall Smith for a few years. It felt a bit like I was reading the same book with the parts mixed up a bit. I only picked up this one because the cover was so lovely. But, I'm very glad I did. It felt like it had all the best of AMS (the good writting, the gentle attitude, the careful observations), but at the same, time it felt different. It was sort of the lagoom (the Swedish idea of just enough) in story form. Maybe, Wallander crossed with Nabakov? I don't know quite how to describe it. This mystery story takes place in Sweden, and I haven't been, but it felt authentic. All the Swedes I know talk about the middle path, or rightness, called lagoom. I get the feeling that AMS must have learned of lagoom and found a kindred feeling. His own literary output might be said to be much more than just enough, but the actual tone of the stories have such a light pacing. You turn the page because you like being in the world, not because you need to know the mystery. That's how this one is. I loved the characterizations. There is a great deal about dogs, and their essential being; this part is particularly fantastic. Overall, such a great read. Might be great for a holiday read if you want one that has some solid substance, and offers you a few moments of introspection.


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