The first book in Alexander McCall Smith's new Detective Varg series . . .
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo introduced us to Scandi noir. Now, welcome to Alexander McCall Smith's world of Scandi blanc, where mysteries abound and there is still so much for a Swedish detective to learn.
Ulf Varg works in Malmö's Department of Sensitive Crimes. Like all Scandinavian detectives, he has his issues. In this case, these include his unresolved feelings for his colleague Anna, his impatience over the seeming incompetence of his irritating colleague Blomquist and his concerns for the health of his hearing-impaired dog Martin, the only dog in Sweden (and possibly all Scandinavia) who can lip-read.
Soon, Ulf and his colleagues find themselves investigating an attack on a market trader, the disappearance of a handsome man who may not exist and a group of students whose relationships leave a great deal to be desired . . .
'Wonderfully soothing and relaxing' Telegraph
Ulf Varg, the lead detective in this appealing series launch from Smith (the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series), works for the Sensitive Crimes Department of the Malm , Sweden, Criminal Investigation Authority. He and his colleagues, including married Anna Bengsdotter, on whom the divorced Ulf has a guilty crush, investigate minor crimes, such as the nonfatal stabbing of a market vendor in the back of the knee. Ulf easily figures out whodunit, the focus being on why the culprit, basically a decent man, did the deed and his subsequent treatment within the justice system. Another case involves a lonely young woman, Bim Sundstr m, who invents an imaginary boyfriend, Sixten, to impress others. Complications ensue when Bim claims that Sixten, a medical student, has suddenly left her and gone off to a research station at the North Pole. A third case concerns a purported werewolf, whose nocturnal howls are driving away customers from a resort spa. As usual, the interpersonal relationships 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.
More of the same
Prodigious does not come close to describing this now 70-year-old British-Zimbabwean writer and academic lawyer.
He’s written as many books as there are stars in the Milky Way galaxy, it seems, and he keeps churning them out (5000 words a day every day when he’s at home, at least a 1000 if he’s away)
There’s a fair quantity of technical and professional non-fiction in his bibliography before 2000. Since then, it’s been fiction all the way, generally in multi-book series.
Most celebrated is the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, which has sold in excess of 20 million copies, and counting.
The crimes Mr McCall Smith writes about are never particularly heinous. His detectives are verbose but good natured. The plots are farce more than crime fiction.
Sensitive Crimes is the first instalment of a new series set in Sweden instead of Botswana or Scotland or wherever. I gave it a go for that reason. Sadly, it was exactly the same as everything else I’ve read, or tried to read, by this author.
This book bored me rigid. If you’re more kindly disposed to Mr McCall Smith’s schtick than I am, you’ll might like it. It will certainly sound familiar.