The Strange Case of the Moderate Extremists

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 10 Jul 2019

Member Reviews

It's a lovely novella, sweet and entertaining.
It made wish to read the novel and I will surely buy it.
I received this ARC via Netgalley in Exchange for a honest review.
Was this review helpful?
I have a complex relationship with Alexander McCall Smith. Not that I know him personally, but I do know his books. His books’ covers to be exact. Even in a library where there are many fetching book covers to behold, my eye is immediately drawn in byhis. Never judge a book by its cover they say; however, today I absolutely did. It was time to see if the content matched the whimsy book cover as well as the stellar name of this detective short. With a name like The Strange Case of the Moderate Extremists, you know you are in for a treat of oxymoronic absurdity.

The story begins with a dream. Ulf dreams of a setting much like his Uncle Maksimilian’s home, conjuring up terrifying days of being forced to watch Ingmar Bergman movies because of his uncle’s fondness for them. His brother Bjorn was also a participant to those days, and together they would wonder what Uncle Maksimilian and Aunt Birgitte got up to in the sauna (wink wink, nudge nudge). In a seeming coincidence, Bjorn appears on TV, in his capacity as a moderate extremist (he is a politician), after which Ulf receives a call from Bjorn because his help is required.

As the brothers meet up for lunch, we wonder, as Ulf does, how on earth two people could grow up in the same environment and turn out so vastly different. Bjorn has such idiotic views, like the desired removal of abstract art because lay people don’t get it, or wanting to ban ethnic food since it feels unpatriotic to eat any food that isn’t Swedish. You think to yourself how on earth such an absurd human being could exist, as well as belong to a political party that subscribes to such inane views? Smith’s work is satire at its finest and has such aptness attached to it given the recent political opinions surrounding the New Zealand mosque attacks.

Bjorn needs Ulf to find out who is leaking party secrets, and there is a cat breeding crime that also needs solving – a busy time for detective Ulf Varg at Sensitive Crimes. Ulf is an extremely well-layered character, so much so that I find myself relating to him in such a short period of time. I admire the quickness of his detective mind, his openness about his desires and loneliness. Both mysteries are also equally compelling, which is proof that you don’t need a homicidal angle to write a good mystery. There is such nostalgia to Smith’s work. While reading this book I felt like I was taken back to the good old days of Hercule Poirot and Nancy Drew. Maybe I should judge a book by its cover more often.
Was this review helpful?
For a fairly short book, I felt like I was getting to know the main characters fairly well. Ulf Varg is a police detective who works in the sensitive cases department. In this book he is working on two separate cases. It plays like a mystery, but with an unique twist that I won't go into details about to avoid spoilers. I'm looking forward to finding out what will happen next to Ulf in more books in this series.
Was this review helpful?
The Strange Case of the Moderate Extremists is a Vintage Short by author Alexander McCall Smith. Swedish Detective Ulf Varg is a member of The Department of Sensitive Crimes. His younger brother, Bjorn, leader of the Moderate Extremist Party suspects someone is leaking their ideas to the media as well as to their political rivals, the Extreme Moderates and wants Ulf to suss out the traitor. Ulf has mixed feelings since he doesn't support the party and he's not sure it would be ethical for him to investigate but, on the other hand, it is his brother asking so what to do. 

Meanwhile, he is called in to deal with an odd (and rather funny) case in which a raggedy old Tom cat was placed into the carrier of a prize winning Burmese cat named Duchess IV. Nature having taken it's course, the snobbish owner of said Burmese wants the perpetrator of this heinous crime caught and duly punished. 

I found the story, for the most part, charming and humorous but also somewhat frustrating. Like most of Smith's books, it is less about the cases in the story and more about the human condition, in this case the mysteries of love and the humour to be found in people's relations with political parties. However, I have never been a huge fan of short stories and this a good example of why. There's too little time to really get to know the characters well enough to care about them. Also, the ending seemed abrupt and left both cases feeling unresolved.

Still, overall, I did enjoy it enough to recommend it at least to fans of the author and I will definitely be reading the first fulll-length novel in the series, The Department of Sensitive Crimes.

3.5

Thanks to Netgalley and Knopf Doubleday Publishing for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review
Was this review helpful?
This novella introduces McCall Smith's new series, which focuses on Swedish detective Varg and his Department of Sensitive Crimes, and is as sweet and funny as the novel that follows. Having had the pleasure of already reading the novel, some information is slightly repetitive (i.e. the characters' descriptions and concerns), but not so much that it interferes with the enjoyment of the story. The novella focuses on Varg's brother and gently mocks politicians and demagogues (especially right-wing). The second case, a sensitive matter related to cat breeding and a human love triangle, is less character-driven, but fun nonetheless. My only warning to the readers is that both cases end rather abruptly and neither comes to a coherent conclusion: a matter surely realistic in the detective business but less than satisfying in a mystery! Then again, these stories are never about "whodunnit" but more "humans are fascinating, aren't they?" kind of narratives. So with that in mind, this book was an absolute delight and I'm looking forward to more novels in this series!
Was this review helpful?
Always a pleasure to read anything from this author. This brief introduction to yet another series - McCall Smith is astonishingly prolific - is charming and in his usual quirky gentle style. The main character, Ulf Varg, is a Swedish detective working in the Department of Sensitive Crimes (not sure this is a real thing!), and is asked to investigate a case in the world of cat breeders. This case, together with a secondary story about his brother who heads the 'Moderate Extremists' party, make up an engaging read. Yet another series to follow!
Many thanks to the publisher for a review copy.
Was this review helpful?
GoodReads lists this as coming before book 1 in this new series, but I read it after /The department of sensitive crimes/, which I think would probably be less frustrating for most readers.  The characters and general story set-up get more introduction in the novel.  Reading this first, the reader might have more trouble connecting to the characters.

As in the novel, nothing much happened here.  The main character thought some thoughts at home about his dog, and thought some other thoughts at work about a case.  He didn't investigate anything or make any conclusions, just passed along his theories to other people.  I can't imagine where this series is trying to go.
Was this review helpful?
“If there was one thing you learned in the Department of Sensitive Crimes it was that the obvious solution was often misleading. Life was obvious, yes, but behind the obvious, the self-evident, there lay any number of other lively possibilities.”

The Strange Case of the Moderate Extremists is a kindle short in the Detective Varg series by popular British author, Alexander McCall-Smith. Swedish Detective Ulf Varg first appeared in the 2013 Valentine’s Day short story, Varg in Love. Now part of the Department of Sensitive Crimes, he works with a staff of three and deals with a number of interesting cases. Currently, his attention is on the apparent sabotage of the pre-sold litter of a pure-bred Champion Burmese owned by a breeder of Oriental cats, who has provided a list of likely suspects. 

Meanwhile, Ulf’s younger brother, Bjorn, head of the right-wing Moderate Extremists Party, asks for his help. This creates a bit of a dilemma, as Bjorn’s political beliefs in no way align with his own. But his brother is after advice about a leak in the Party: information is somehow getting out to the Extreme Moderates Party. Before Ulf can do more than consider the situation, he learns something from an unexpected source.

Readers familiar with McCall Smith’s other detective series will agree that these books are not read for the crime solving aspect. Indeed, in this case, much of the policing is a little tongue-in-cheek. Rather, he uses them as an opportunity to comment on human behaviour, and to share his gentle philosophy with musings and observations like those that follow.

“People put far too much store on figures these days. They want inputs and outputs and so on, but what does any of that actually mean? Does it have any bearing - any bearing at all – on whether an outcome is good, bad or indifferent? Does it?” and
“There was a tendency, particularly amongst public figures, to confuse the categories of mistake and wrongdoing. People who had been caught out doing something egregiously wrong would often refer to having ‘made a mistake’. This made their actions seem less reprehensible; after all, mistakes are human, and usually pardonable.”

As well as using amusing and intriguing chapter titles (The Criminal Use of Laxatives, Merino Underpants), McCall Smith allows his characters to discuss or contemplate: conceptual art; the drawbacks of electric cars; overfishing; bring struck by a meteor; and errant brothers. The story also features Sweden’s only lip-reading dog. Delightful, as always.
This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by NetGalley and Knopf Doubleday
Was this review helpful?
Much like his other books, this is a delightful story with great characters. I really enjoyed getting to know a new cast of characters. Can’t wait to read more of this series.
Was this review helpful?
I am a little ashamed to confess that this is my first foray into the mind of Alexander McCall Smith and I found it to be a delightfully straightforward and amusing place to be. This tells the story of Ulf Varg, a detective in the department of sensitive crimes in Sweden as he investigates the rogue impregnation of a prize winning cat by a tom, whilst trying to discover who is releasing party secrets for his politician brother. The story is really simple in narrative structure and the characters are sweet, if a little stereotypical. I found the tone amusing and the interactions between the characters felt natural and authentic, as did the dialogue and motivations. This is a short little novella which is a great introduction to the Department of Sensitive Crimes series and I will definitely pick up more books in this series as they are released. All in all, I enjoyed this quite a lot.
I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Was this review helpful?
The Strange Case Of The Moderate Extremists by Alexander McCall Smith is a ebook novella introducing Detective Ulf Varg.  Very soon, a full-length novel featuring Ulf Varg called The Department of Sensitive Crimes will be published.  Reading this novella is a perfect way to see whether you like the concept of the new series and want to dip in further!

I love the title of this book.  The very notion of moderate extremism seems like an oxymoron, which is why it’s such a good title.  The book also has extreme moderates!  Ha, ha.  McCall Smith always seems to be able to combine adjectives and nouns in new and interesting ways in his titles.

The main character, Ulf Varg, lives in Sweden and works for the Department of Sensitive Crimes.  During the course of the novella, he solves two unrelated mysteries.  As in all of McCall Smith’s other novels, the pace is calming, the philosophy gently sprinkled throughout, and by the end things are again right in the world.  I love Alexander McCall Smith’s books so much, every time a new one comes out I read it.  I think that this book is a perfect place for you to start reading his books too!    

Note: I received an advance copy of this book through Netgalley.
Was this review helpful?
A sweet, lovely novella that introduces the characters of McCall Smith new series and make you crave for more.
It's a very simple story but it's interesting to read about the new characters and it's written in the typical McCall Smith style.
I like the plot, the characters and found it enjoyable.
I look forward to read the new book.
Highly recommended!
Many thanks to Knopf Doubleday and Netgalley for this ARC
Was this review helpful?
This short story/novella is really here to whet your appetite for a new series featuring Detective Ulf Varg.  Set in Malmo, Sweden, it's full of the classic Alexander McCall Smith characters- quirky, intelligent, and not really criminal.  He packs a lot into this slim story but it's a fun read, complete with issues with pets, an unrequited love interest, a brother with serious political differences, and so on.  Thanks to net galley for the ARC. I enjoyed this and am looking forward to a full length book.
Was this review helpful?
This is my first read of anything written by Alexander McCall Smith. I was immediately attracted to it because of the title—I mean, how can you not be intrigued by a title about Moderate Extremists, whatever that might be?

This short story introduces us to the characters of the Malmo Police Department of Sensitive Crimes, which is tasked with solving bizarre and often insignificant crimes, such as the one that Ulf and Anna work to solve in this story: the case of the ginger tomcat from the wrong side of the tracks, who has an unwelcome liaison with a purebred Burmese. It’s a scandal, but was it sabotage? Outside of work, Ulf must also deal with his politician brother who realizes that there’s a snitch within his Moderate Extremists party that’s leaking important ideas to the opposing Extreme Moderates.

The story touches upon the fickleness of humans with a good dose of Scandinavian charm and comedy. Although I felt that the writing style in this meandered slightly and the ending was honestly a little anticlimactic, the wholesome, quirky characters and their interactions made it an enjoyable read. I'll be looking forward to reading more about their adventures when the new series about The Department of Sensitive Crimes comes out later this year!

Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for providing me this ARC in exchange for an honest review. The book is scheduled for release on 26 February 2019.
Was this review helpful?
A cute little short that certainly sets the stage and the tone for the upcoming full-length novel, THE DEPARTMENT OF SENSITIVE CRIMES.
Was this review helpful?
This is a short novella in the new Swedish detective series McCall Smith is writing about the Department of Sensitive Crimes. This is a really off beat group and they investigate crimes that really don't belong anywhere else. This one involves two cases. One is a tom cat who ends up mating with a purebred. Was it sabotage? The other involves Ulf's (department head) brother and the chicanery in his extremely odd political party.

  I really enjoyed this, in fact better than the debut novel. It has the making of a good series and I plan on reading more. 

  Thanks to Net Galley for a copy of the book in exchange for a fair review.
Was this review helpful?
Alexander McCall Smith's usual cozy humor is present in this title but mostly this work is just....confusing. Some of the confusion is the result of my own error for assuming this book would be similar to others focused on peculiar or supernatural crimes (the rivers of London series, Bryant & May, Peculiar Crimes Unit, etc.), but the text itself is often convoluted and bewildering. McCall Smith fans will likely be delighted, but I'll be giving this series a pass going forward.
Was this review helpful?
Awesome is how I would describe Alexander McCall Smith’s books. He manages to captivate the nature of mankind in all of his books. This same insightfulness is seen in his new series based in Sweden.  His ingenuity of combining a story with introspection and laughter is a gift that we can enjoy and allows us to take ourselves from our hectic lives. Can’t wait for the next book so I may enjoy the author’s wit once more.

Thanks to Netgalley and Vintage Books for ARC copy of this book to read and review.
Was this review helpful?
This short story introduces us to Alexander McCall Smith's latest quirky character, Ulf Varg.  
Ulf is a senior member of the Department of Sensitive Crimes, which investigates unusual cases.  His current case concerns sabotage ...of a purebred cat.  The owner wants justice for her feline who was caged with a tomcat resulting in a litter of undesirable kittens and ruining the good name of the cat breeder herself.

Ulf's greatest asset is his thoughtful observation of people and their behavior.  This asset leads to a lot of uncomfortable situations in his personal life.  He's secretly in love with his partner, Anna, who is (seemingly) happily married.
Outside the office, Ulf is uncomfortable when asked to look into his brother Bjorn's right-wing political party, the Moderate Extremists, who appear to have a mole in their midst.  Ulf does not see eye-to-eye with his brother about politics and may not have the answer Bjorn would like to hear.

"If there was one thing you learned in the Department of Sensitive Crimes it was that the obvious solution was often misleading. Life was obvious, yes, but behind the obvious, the self-evident, there lay any number of other lively possibilities." *

This cozy story is a fun introduction to Ulf Varg (who will be formally introduced in the upcoming novel The Department of Sensitive Crimes) with a cozy light-hearted mystery and a cast of charming characters that I look forward to learning more about! 

Thanks to Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review.  The Strange Case of the Moderate Extremists is scheduled for release on February 26, 2019.

*Quote included is from a digital advance readers copy and is subject to change upon final publication.
Was this review helpful?
Ulf Varg is a member of Malmö's Department of Sensitive Crimes who seems to be dependent on other peoples ideas as to how to basically solve the crimes that he has been given. He is ambushed by his brother into finding out who is responsible for giving ideas away to other governmental parties. Then he is given a cat case that he needs to solve. He is working with Anna on the cat case where he needs to find out who put a tom cat in with her show cat and the result was kittens that didn't sell. He is in love with Anna but she has a husband and two little girls. What happens is that he has a show down with the cat people and everyone takes the blame. Also with his brother, he explains that his wife doesn't want him in politics any more and his brother takes the blame. Everything is resolved except Ulf is not happy not knowing what is the truth. I's also a noir tale where Ulf is left alone with hisself. It makes for a great short read.
Was this review helpful?