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Tuesday, April 23, 2019

#ATBR2019 Review: The Department of Sensitive Crimes by Alexander McCall Smith @PantheonBooks @McCallSmith

The Department of Sensitive Crimes 
by Alexander McCall Smith 

Thanks so much to Pantheon Books for this copy!

Publisher: Pantheon Books
Publish Date: April 16, 2019
240 Pages
Series: Detective Varg #1
Genres: Humor, Mystery

In the Swedish criminal justice system, certain cases are considered especially strange and difficult, in Malmo, 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.

My Review:

As a lover and long time fan of SVU, how do you NOT pick up a book whose synopsis starts off the way that it does?  Top that with this also being a different take on Nordic Noir crime and well, I just couldn't pass it up.  

I'll be honest - I'm still not quite sure what I read.  The characters are very unique and quirky and while the crimes they take on may not particularly be "sensitive", they certainly are different.  I adore the idea of people taking on crimes that the "normal" law enforcement wouldn't touch. A missing invisible boyfriend?! Haha.

As a first in a series book, it definitely takes on the chore of introducing the characters and laying the ground work.  This could cause the book to lag here and there.  While the more well know, dark and intense, Nordic crime books give you a sense of place, this lighter, quirky and fun book doesn't quite do that, nor do I think it's supposed to.  I'm just slightly surprised but alas, I shouldn't be comparing! **smacks hand**

I don't think I've ever seen conversations and dialogue like the ramblings that could happen throughout this read.  However, I really loved the dry sense of humor and the uniqueness of Ulf and the gang.  

This book is definitely not for everyone but what makes it so is the almost satire look at crime fiction.  For those who need a bit of a palate cleanser without changing full genres, I think this is an adventure to absolutely take.  Just go into it with an open mind and a sense of humor.


Jessica's Review:

As an avid thriller and crime fiction reader, I'll always enjoy a really dark and gritty novel. However, there are some crime fiction novels that have some quirks and unique characters that are just as fun to read! 

DEPARTMENT FOR SENSITIVE CRIMES was my introduction to Alexander McCall Smith and I'm surprised I've never picked up any of his other books before!

The Department for Sensitive Crimes brings us Ulf Varg (aka The Wolf), Anna Bengsdotter, Carl Holgersson, and Erik Nykvist. All unique and quirky in their own right, but all necessary for the success of the team. The department receives the cases that the local police office either has no time for or doesn't want to bother dealing with. So, naturally, you can anticipate some curious and unusual cases that come their way. An unwitnessed stabbing in the back of a knee, a missing boyfriend (who’s imaginary), and a possible werewolf - just to name a few. Don't get me wrong, I love the serial killer investigations and the cat-and-mouse with a killer, but I thoroughly enjoyed these bizarre cases.

If you're looking for a Nordic Noir novel and some gritty crime solving then this won't be the one for you. If you're wanting to dip into the crime fiction genre but don't want anything too heavy or gruesome, then this is the book for you! Great introduction to these characters and the Department and I can't wait to see if there's more coming for this series!

4 stars

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