The Department of Sensitive Crimes by Alexander McCall Smith
|The Department of Sensitive Crimes by Alexander McCall Smith|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Ruth Ng|
|Summary: Scandi Blanc rather than Scandi Noir, this is a slow burner for the start to a new series, yet still sweetly written.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 240||Date: March 2019|
|Publisher: Little, Brown|
|External links: Author's website|
Long-time followers of The Bookbag will know I'm a die-hard fan of AMS. So you can imagine my excitement at reading a brand new book in a brand new series, described by the author himself as Scandi Blanc (as opposed to Scandi Noir)! Here we meet a new detective named Ulf Varg, who works in the Department for Sensitive Crimes, solving those crimes that perhaps fall outside the usual police parameters. This particular book deals with crimes including someone who is stabbed in the knee, the disappearance of an imaginary boyfriend, and a case of potential werewolves. They're the crimes that perhaps nobody else would bother to deal with, and I rather enjoyed them, especially the stabbing where you find that actually, you identify with the person who committed the crime, rather than the victim.
I really like the idea behind the novel, of using the Swedes and their rather sombre, morbid crime series and gently poking fun at it. The characters are quirky, and intriguing. Even smaller, bit-part characters tend to feel very alive and recognisable somehow, and so you find yourself wondering about them as you read and wanting to find out what they'll get up to next. I initially wondered if the book was a series of short stories, as they began with quite a separate sort of feel to them, but then the storylines begin to cross and merge. I liked that the crimes are a bit odd, and there's no gore or trauma to deal with here, so no sleepless nights await as you read!
I think you have to be ready for a little silliness (never a problem for me), but in this book's case, you also need to be ready for quite a slow unfolding. It's not a long book, but there's much meandering and thoughtfulness, though not in quite the same charming way as we see in the Isabel Dalhousie novels. In the same way that Wallander is quite bleak, and a little bit dull at the same time, this has the same sort of feel to it. I did chuckle that Ulf's name basically means 'Wolf Wolf', and I also rather liked the storyline featuring his dog, and his dog's depression, as well as Ulf's ongoing unrequited work/love difficulties.
There are the usual, small moments of gentle humour, and although I was unsure of the story to begin with, it did grow on me. I don't think that as yet it hangs together as well as his other books, but then this is the first outing for the sensitive crimes team, and perhaps they just need to find their feet a little. There were those quirky moments, but it lacked the warmth of Mma Ramotswe and it did read a little slowly at times, as painful as it is to write that, and it didn't grab me in the same way that his other books do. That's not to say I wouldn't read more, because I would, because I do feel that Ulf has potential, and I'd like to see what other crimes the team end up facing together.
Further reading suggestion: You might also enjoy reading The Good Pilot Peter Woodhouse by Alexander McCall Smith
You can read more book reviews or buy The Department of Sensitive Crimes by Alexander McCall Smith at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Department of Sensitive Crimes by Alexander McCall Smith at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.