the sensitive swedish

Ulf Varg, detective in Malmo’s Department of Sensitive Crimes, is no stranger to the darker side of life. That’s why he’s there—to investigate cases of imaginary boyfriends who suddenly go missing or of merchants who get stabbed in the back of the knee. Ulf and his fellow detectives make sense out of nonsense, pull the truth out from the lies, and find peace in the midst of chaos. And they go to the cafe to drink coffee.

The first in Alexander McCall Smith’s new series, The Department of Sensitive Crimes is a gentle look at some of the stranger and more challenging crimes that are faced by these smart, humane, philosophical officers from Sweden.

This mellow novel brings together a delightful cast of characters, from Ulf’s co-investigator Anna, who Ulf has secret feelings for; the verbose uniformed officer Blomquist, who often has the information Ulf needs to solve the crime, much to Ulf’s chagrin; and Ulf’s blind dog Martin, who suffers from depression despite being the first dog able to read lips.

If you’re looking for a dark Scandinavian thriller, this is not the book for you. Ulf’s is a kinder, gentler Sweden, where he is conscientious of his colleagues’ feelings and walks a narrow line to try to keep from getting too . . . Mediterranean in his emotions. He works hard to remain respectful, keeping confidences and being thoughtful in his actions and words.

I will admit I had a hard time getting started with this one, which made me sad because I love McCall’s work so much. But as the story went on, I found more and more joy in these pages. The Department of Sensitive Crimes was a slow burn for me, but it was more than worth the entire journey. If you’re needing a book to help you slow down after a chaotic week, then this is an ideal read. It’s sweet, soothing, and reminds you that is much to be celebrated in this crazy world.

Galleys for The Department of Sensitive Crimes were provided by Penguin Random House through their First to Read program, with many thanks.