Cover Image: The Department of Sensitive Crimes

The Department of Sensitive Crimes

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Member Reviews

A debut in the so-termed Scandinavian Blanc genre/subgenre. I'm sure Alexander McCall Smith is a titan in the detective agency-writing subsection of popular literature now, but even with the appealing title and premise, this fell a little flat.

Unfortunately, the quiet, ponderous writing style didn't work for me. As someone with a short attention span, what I want out of a novel—especially a mystery—is something exciting and entertaining. Even if the content is supposedly small or insignificant, as they are here—"sensitive" crimes including a disappearing imaginary boyfriend, a perplexing stab to the back of the knee—there are ways to make them appealing, entertaining.

For one, you could make the characters intriguing. Or, you could vary up your writing style. Tone up the urgency. Spice up the atmosphere and mood. Add to the intrigue.

Basically, there are a whole number of things to make a bizarre story good, but McCall Smith did none of them.

I would try and give this another chance, but that'll have to come at a later date. Much... later.
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Alexander McCall Smith has started another series with The Department of Sensitive Affairs.  Scandinavian manners and sensitivities cause cases for the Department of Sensitive Affairs and McCall Smith's detectives handle them with gentle humour.
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Après plusieurs chapitres, je n'ai toujours pas trouvé de l'intérêt dans l'histoire, ni dans les personnages. Je suis déçue, je pensais bien aimé cet ouvrage. L'histoire prend du temps à débuter et semble stagnante, au point de l'ennui. Dommage.
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The Department of Sensitive Crimes had everything I expect from an Alexander McCall Smith book: Quirky characters, ridiculous situations, lovable characters, good natured humour, a few life lessons and a lot of heart. The story was utterly charming. The several cases that the Department examined were unusual and were all solved in the course of this book. I’m not sure if this will be a series or not but it probably should be. There are no cliff-hangers and everything felt complete but I can’t help but hope there are more sensitive crimes to be investigated in the future.

This isn’t an action packed story by any means. It is more about the relationships and thoughts of the characters. There is a lot of talking, mostly about nothing. In that respect it reminded me of Seinfeld which is often referred to as a show about nothing in particular. The characters are what are important and the plot is just a vehicle to let them shine. That isn’t to say that the story wasn’t compelling, because I found it engaging, but don’t expect shootouts or dead bodies. There is one werewolf chase in the dark but for the most part this is a quiet type of book. It’s also a feel good book that will leave you with restored faith in humanity. This author never lets me down when I need a positive to counteract all the negative in life. This is the definition of cozy and I’m ready to curl up with more!

Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada and Knopf Canada for providing an Electronic Advance Reader Copy via NetGalley for review.
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My thanks to Penguin Random House Canada and Netgalley for my review copy of this eBook. The comments below are my own.
This is the debut for a new series by the prolific Scottish author Alexander McCall Smith.  The story is set in present day Sweden and features a branch of a local police force called the Sensitive Crimes Department.  It takes cases from other branches of the force which are deemed to need complicated investigation.  
The department is staffed by Ulf Varg and three colleagues: Anna, Carl and Erik.  Blomquist, a cop from the regular police force is a recurring presence in the book. All are well drawn and have their individual quirks, as do most of the people encountered in the story.  Varg does a good job of narrating the story and he is a likeable protagonist.  It's a good ensemble for a continuing series.
This story uses McCall Smith's trademark structure of a series of related episodes, more than a simple flow of consciousness but not the usual "beginning, middle and end" story progression. That is an attractive strength of Smith's stories,  including this one.  A weakness in this story is the "ending", which is not really an ending.  A couple of the resolutions of episodes in the story are frankly puzzling.  Closing the book you might think;|"What was that all about?".  In my case I initially thought there was a missing chapter or two at the end, but a double check did not turn up any. I found it an unsatisfactory and disappointing conclusion.
I can recommend the book on the basis that anything McCall Smith writes is worthwhile reading, although some of his work is better than this book.
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Thank you NetGalley for an ARC in return for an honest review.

I was expecting Nordic Noir but it turns out to be a lighthearted, easy read about a special department that is dedicated to sensitive crimes. The characters were all very gentle and wholesome as in the crimes that they try to solve.
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While I'm generally a Alexander McCall Smith fan, this one wasn't for me. I found it too slow moving and did not finish it therefore will not review it on Goodreads.
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Many thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Random House Canada for the advance copy of this delightful, lighthearted book.  Alexander McCall Smith is one of my favourite writers.  I have read all of his Ladies No.1 Detective Agency and the 44 Scotland Street series, and many of his other books.  I hope this will be the start of another ongoing series. 

When you think of Swedish police investigations and mysteries, the popular Scandinavian-Noir genre comes to mind with its dark and disturbing tales. This is a gentler, more relaxing book which covers unusual, even insignificant crimes. To work as a detective in the Department of Sensitive Crimes is considered a step up for some members of the regular police force, but you get the idea that the mysteries are often passed on to the Sensitive Crimes branch when the police force considers them unimportant and not worth the bother. 

 The author has great insight into human nature, and his stories contain much wit and wisdom and a philosophy of values to ponder. There is sly humour and a cast of idiosyncratic characters, and patience and goodness in this detective agency. 

Detective Varg is morose and dejected as a result of his wife leaving him for a hypnotist.  However, he finds himself developing strong feelings for Anna, a married colleague. These feelings seem to be returned, but neither will act or even speak of it since it is against their morals. They do have a good working partnership. Also, there is Carl who works the longest hours in the office but never seems to be included in investigations and Erik whose mind is mostly on fly fishing and constructing fishing lures at his desk. Most annoying to Varg is Blomquist, a local policeman who gets drawn into his crime-solving activities.  He is very opinionated and talks continuously about mundane matters and feels he is always right. He is jealous of those working in the Department of Sensitive Crimes and wants to work there. 

 The first crime investigation concerns the reason a business owner was stabbed in the back of his knee. Then a young woman’s imaginary boyfriend is reported missing and some suspect she murdered him.  The third case is a confidential one, assigned by the reclusive Police Commissioner. A relative’s spa has lost much business due to a possible werewolf frightening customers at night.  

 I hope there will be more books in the series. I want to learn more about the detectives and their sparkling, thought-provoking conversations, as well as their crime investigations on the lighter side of Sweden.
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