Department of Sensitive Crimes – Alexander McCall Smith

Released yesterday!

Thanks to Pantheon Books for the free advanced copy in exchange for my honest review.

DEPARTMENT OF SENSITIVE CRIMES – Alexander McCall Smith (out now!)

Check back for the #ATBR2019 thoughts!


Book Description:

In the Swedish criminal justice system, certain cases are considered especially strange and difficult, in Malmo, the dedicated detectives who investigate these crimes are members of an elite squad known as the Sensitive Crimes Division.

These are their stories.

The first case: the small matter of a man stabbed in the back of the knee. Who would perpetrate such a crime and why? Next: a young woman’s imaginary boyfriend goes missing. But how on earth do you search for someone who doesn’t exist? And in the final investigation: eerie secrets that are revealed under a full moon may not seem so supernatural in the light of day. No case is too unusual, too complicated, or too, well insignificant for this squad to solve.

The team: Ulf ‘the Wolf” Varg, the top dog, thoughtful and diligent; Anna Bengsdotter, who’s in love with Varg’s car (and possibly Varg too); Carl Holgersson, who likes nothing more than filling out paperwork; and Erik Nykvist, who is deeply committed to fly fishing.

With the help of a rather verbose local police officer, this crack team gets to the bottom of cases other detectives can’t or won’t bother to handle. Equal parts hilarious and heartening, The Department of Sensitive Crimes is a tour de farce from a true master.


My Thoughts: 4/5 stars!

As an avid thriller and crime fiction reader, I’ll always enjoy a really dark and gritty novel. However, there are some crime fiction novels that have some quirks and unique characters that are just as fun to read! DEPARTMENT OF SENSITIVE CRIMES was my introduction to Alexander McCall Smith and I’m surprised I’ve never picked up any of his other books before!

The Department for Sensitive Crimes brings us Ulf Varg (aka The Wolf), Anna Bengsdotter, Carl Holgersson, and Erik Nykvist. All unique and quirky in their own right, but all necessary for the success of the team. The department receives the cases that the local police office either has no time for or doesn’t want to bother dealing with. So, naturally, you can anticipate some curious and unusual cases that come their way. An unwitnessed stabbing in the back of a knee, a missing boyfriend (who’s imaginary), and a possible werewolf – just to name a few. Don’t get me wrong, I love the serial killer investigations and the cat-and-mouse with a killer, but I thoroughly enjoyed these bizarre cases.

If you’re looking for a Nordic Noir novel and some gritty crime solving then this won’t be the one for you. If you’re wanting to dip into the crime fiction genre but don’t want anything too heavy or gruesome, then this is the book for you! Great introduction to these characters and the Department and I can’t wait to see if there’s more coming for this series!

About the Author:

“McCall Smith’s generous writing and dry humor, his gentleness and humanity, and his ability to evoke a place and a set of characters without caricature or condescension have endeared his books to readers.”—New York Times

“McCall Smith creates unforgettable characters and stories that resonate with readers across generations.”—Booklist

“McCall Smith’s saga is evolving into a tapestry of extraordinary nuance and richness.” — Wall Street Journal

Alexander McCall Smith has written and contributed to more than 100 books, including
specialist academic titles, short story collections, and a number of immensely popular children’s books. He is best known for his internationally acclaimed and bestselling No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, which currently has 13 volumes. The series has now been translated into 45 languages and has sold over 20 million copies worldwide (12 million in the US). The first episode of a film adaptation, directed by Anthony Minghella, and produced by the Weinstein Company, premiered on HBO in March 2009. Another series, beginning with The Sunday Philosophy Club, about an intriguing woman named Isabel Dalhousie, appeared in 2004 and immediately leapt onto national bestseller lists, as did its sequels. The ninth Dalhousie novel, The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds, came out fall 2012. McCall Smith’s serial novel, 44 Scotland Street, was published in book form to great acclaim in 2005 and has been followed by many sequels. A solo novel, La’s Orchestra Saves the World , came out in December 2009. Corduroy Mansions, a series depicting the lives of the inhabitants of a large Pimlico house, was published and podcasted by the UK’s Daily Telegraph, and is now published in three volumes.

In addition, McCall Smith’s German professor series, Portuguese Irregular Verbs , The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs, and At the Villa of Reduced Circumstances were published in the US in January 2005. The newest book in the series, Unusual Uses for Olive Oil: A Professor Dr von Igelfeld Entertainment, has just been released. He is also the author of several children’s books, including The Great Cake Mystery (about Precious Ramotswe as a young girl), the Akimbo series, about a boy in Africa, the Harriet Bean series, the Max & Maddy series, and The Perfect Hamburger and other Delicious Stories. Pantheon has also published Alexander McCall Smith’s collection of African folktales, The Girl Who Married a Lion . He is currently working on a book about W. H. Auden titled, What W. H. Auden Can Do for You , which will be published by Princeton University Press in September 2013. A stand-alone novel, Trains and Lovers, was released in the US in June 2013

McCall Smith was born in what is now Zimbabwe and was educated there and in Scotland. He became a law professor in Scotland, and it was in this role that he first returned to Africa to work in Botswana, where he helped to set up a new law school at the University of Botswana. For many years he was Professor of Medical Law at the University of Edinburgh, and has been a visiting professor at a number of other universities elsewhere, including ones in Italy and the United States. He is now a Professor Emeritus at the University of Edinburgh.

In addition to his university work, McCall Smith was for four years the vice-chairman of the Human Genetics Commission of the UK, the chairman of the British Medical Journal Ethics Committee, and a member of the International Bioethics Commission of UNESCO. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including The Crime Writers’ Association’s Dagger in the Library Award, the United Kingdom’s Author of The Year Award in 2004, the Saga Award for Wit, and Sweden’s Martin Beck Award. In 2007 he was made a CBE for his services to literature in the Queen’s New Year’s Honor List. He holds honorary doctorates from 12 universities, most recently from Southern Methodist University, Dallas. In 2010 McCall Smith was awarded the Presidential Order of Merit by the President of Botswana. In 2012, he was awarded the Duke LEAF Award for Lifetime Environmental Achievement in the Fine Arts.

Alexander McCall Smith currently lives in Edinburgh with his wife Elizabeth (an Edinburgh doctor). His hobbies include playing wind instruments, and he is the co founder of an amateur orchestra called "The Really Terrible Orchestra" in which he plays the bassoon and his wife plays the horn.

4 thoughts on “Department of Sensitive Crimes – Alexander McCall Smith

Add yours

  1. Wait, what’s with his name on the cover? Don’t tell me he’s fallen for the “put dots on letters to make something look Scandinavian”, it doesn’t it just makes it look absolutely ridiculous. There’s no “ä” in the Swedish spelling of Alexander and if there were it would have been an “e” that was replaced.


      1. Well, I guess it looks more Swedish to someone whose only knowledge about Swedish is that some letter have dots on them. It is unfortunately rather common. However ä and å are not slightly different varieties of a, they count as completely different vowels (as do ö and o) and are not interchangeable.

        Liked by 1 person

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