Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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In Smith’s delightful third mystery featuring Malmö, Sweden, police detective Ulf Varg (after 2020’s The Talented Mr. Varg), art historian Anders Kindgren has been plagued for months by a series of “nasty little events,” starting with someone stuffing rotten fish into his car hood air vents. Now the stakes have risen. A painting he recently authenticated has been discovered to be a forgery. Certain that a forgery was substituted for the original after his evaluation, Kindgren wants Ulf, the thoughtful, tolerant head of the Department of Sensitive Crimes, to catch the person trying to besmirch his reputation. The gossamer-thin plot is almost irrelevant. The novel’s pleasures lie in Ulf’s philosophical asides and comments on how to live a good, just life: “It was hard to remain tolerant; it was hard to do the right thing; but we simply had no alternative. Oppression and violence brought sorrow—and more violence.” Smith’s gift is to use crime as a structure for writing about morality and making it such a pleasure to read. This is a refreshing change from the standard Scandinavian noir fare. (July)


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

The indefatigable McCall Smith, author of numerous stand-alone novels for adults and children, and three long-running series, including the wildly successful No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency novels, launched the Detective Varg series with The Department of Sensitive Crimes (2019). It's about a branch of the Swedish Police, based in Malmö, and dedicated to the investigation of highly unusual crimes—ones that may seem miniscule, even comic, except to the victims. Detective Ulf Varg is a delight to follow as he muses on a wide range of topics, including his own conflicted, self-critical character. The “sensitive crime” in the third installment involves a noted art historian who consults Varg after a series of attacks, starting with someone stuffing fish in his car's vents and escalating to a serious assault on his reputation. McCall Smith guides readers through the sometimes treacherous world of academia and auction houses, with Varg finding an ever-expanding list of people who may have it in for the suffering art historian. What appears, at first, to be a “nothing” series of crimes expands into an incisive character analysis with a "wow" of a resolution, all while sustaining its comic bent. The Varg series is a nice antidote to Nordic noir.


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

The indefatigable McCall Smith, author of numerous stand-alone novels for adults and children, and three long-running series, including the wildly successful No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency novels, launched the Detective Varg series with The Department of Sensitive Crimes (2019). It's about a branch of the Swedish Police, based in Malmö, and dedicated to the investigation of highly unusual crimes—ones that may seem miniscule, even comic, except to the victims. Detective Ulf Varg is a delight to follow as he muses on a wide range of topics, including his own conflicted, self-critical character. The “sensitive crime” in the third installment involves a noted art historian who consults Varg after a series of attacks, starting with someone stuffing fish in his car's vents and escalating to a serious assault on his reputation. McCall Smith guides readers through the sometimes treacherous world of academia and auction houses, with Varg finding an ever-expanding list of people who may have it in for the suffering art historian. What appears, at first, to be a “nothing” series of crimes expands into an incisive character analysis with a "wow" of a resolution, all while sustaining its comic bent. The Varg series is a nice antidote to Nordic noir.

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