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The Department of Sensitive Crimes

(Detective Varg #1)

3.64  ·  Rating details ·  310 ratings  ·  118 reviews
In the Swedish criminal justice system, certain cases are considered especially strange and difficult, in Malm�, 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
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published April 16th 2019 by Pantheon Books
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3.64  · 
Rating details
 ·  310 ratings  ·  118 reviews

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Kylie D
A strange little book, not unenjoyable, just a bit bizarre. We follow along with detective Ulf Varg and his team at the Department Of Sensitive Crimes in Sweden as they try to solve some curious cases, including a stabbing in the back of the knee and the disappearance of an imaginary boyfriend. Witty and full of eccentric characters, I found myself chuckling a couple of times. I was amused by the quirkiness of both the characters and the storyline. I'm still sitting here shaking my head at what ...more
Feb 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5000-2019
Please note that I am already one of this author's biggest fans!

Another new series by Alexander McCall Smith and it starts well. He tries something slightly different this time and takes a gentle poke at the crime genre, specifically Nordic Noir. There is nothing dark in this book at all as Detective Varg and his odd team attempt to solve a series of "sensitive" crimes. Most of the characters are like the author himself and they ramble at length and philosophise on anything at the drop of a hat.
The Department of Sensitive Crimes was an unusual police department. Run by head detective Ulf Varg, with Anna, Erik and Carl as his off siders, Ulf found himself working more with Anna than the others. But the crimes were passed on to them from other departments because of their sensitive natures.

With the combination of a low-level stabbing, a missing imaginary friend then a missing real friend (or was she?) as just the start, plus Ulf’s dog Martin being treated for depression – it really was
A light and gentle read with McCall Smith's signature warmth and homespun philosophy. None of the 'sensitive' crimes passed on to the Department are very serious but are thoughtfully handled and resolved by Detective Varg, who is a master of understanding human nature.

I'm a big fan of the author's No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency and 44 Scotland Street but this one doesn't have quite the same appeal to me, being somewhat slower and more reflective. However, McCall Smith's books have a habit of cree
The Department of Sensitive Crimes is the first full-length novel in the Detective Varg series by popular British author, Alexander McCall-Smith. And he’s having a lend of us, the reader. If that’s not obvious from the title and the characters, then the cases they deal with should confirm it. Those characters, though, do give him enormous scope for insightful observations and wise words.

The DoSC consists of Carl (incredibly conscientious), Erik (obsessed by fishing), Ulf (kind and sensitive and
John Martin
Apr 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a really enjoyable read for me: quick, gentle, light, quirky with pockets of very funny humour.
I've been a fan for some of the stripped-back writing that comes out of Scandinavia, and if the author had chosen a Nordic pen name I would never have suspected it wasn't actually a product of Sweden.
The fact that Alexander McCall Smith promotes this as Scandi Blanc rather than Scandi Noir flagged it a satire I wanted to read.
He gets inside the heads of an array of characters just brilliantly.
Kasa Cotugno
Nobody writes like Alexander McCall Smith. He has a formula, and this time he's transposed it to Scandinavia where, if fiction coming out in the past 20 years or so is to believed, corruption and mayhem fester around every corner. But with his talent for creating casts of lovable characters, Smith traipses out here in the creation of a department that will handle those quirky cases that need attention, but more serious minded police won't waste time on (after all, they're too busy chasing knife ...more
I'm more of a dabbler than a hardcore fan of this author (although I do have a favourite series - Isabel Dalhousie), but when I found out he was turning his hand to Scandi-crime I couldn't resist. While this was a good, short read, overall I have to say I could take it or leave it.

Detective Ulf Varg is the nominal head of the Department of Sensitive Crimes, an offshoot of the Malmö Police Department in southern Sweden. When the police can't work out what to do with their more unusual cases, they
Kirsty ❤️
Feb 26, 2019 rated it liked it
McCall Smith for me is a little bit like James Patterson; no matter how many different series they create you always know when you are reading one. They both have a bit f a unique style you can instantly recognise. With Smith we have quirky characters and gentle crime. Ok in the first story someone gets stabbed in the leg but it's still not as dark as other authors. 

I'm not sure about sensitive but the crimes are definitely different and intriguing. If anything they are all solved a little bit t
Kylie H
Feb 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is completely in line with the gently philosophical 'No 1 Ladies Detective Agency' series. the central character is Ulf Varg, a Swedish detective with the Department of Sensitive Crimes, where he works with a number of quirky staff who all enjoy discussions about obscure facts and strange observations.
In amongst all this sometimes distracting conversation there are a few mysteries involving a minor stabbing, a missing imaginary boyfriend and a health spa with strange goings on.
Ulf is k
Dec 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
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 i
Mar 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc-s, ebooks
~ 3.5 ~ but rounding it up because it's the first in a series and because it was just so darn cute.

As a long-time fan of The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, I was really excited to read the first installment of Alexander McCall Smith’s new Detective Varg series. The blurbs for this “Scandi blanc” novel were hilarious so I was ready for more cheerful, detective fun. On this, the book definitely delivered. It was absolutely delightful.

The Department of Sensitive Crimes was a unique take on
Susan Johnson
Feb 05, 2019 rated it liked it
McCall Smith turns his gentle hand to Malmo, Sweden where a police department investigates "sensitive" crimes. These are crimes that really don't fit in anywhere else. The department is headed up by Ulf "TheWolf" Varg and has three other members.

Cases include an unique look at the stabbing of a knee, an imaginary boyfriend and an investigation of the chief of police's relative's resort. It needs to handled with kid gloves and tact and involves a wolf.

The series reminds me of the Dalhousie and
df parizeau
Jan 11, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: mystery
I'd never read McCall Smith until now, but this ARC came through work and it piqued my interest. I'm not sure if the issue is that this is the first book in the series and he is trying to establish a lot of character traits, but I found this very self-involved and dull.

There is so much useless dialogue and conversations between the characters. Very little of it is anything more than pedantic small-talk.

I also find it rather self-aggrandizing of Smith to say he's creating a "new genre." Scani-bla
Elaine Tomasso
I would like to thank Netgalley and Little, Brown Book Group UK for an advance copy of The Department of Sensitive Crimes, the first novel to feature Detective Ulf Varg of the Malmö police.

Ulf, along with his colleagues, Anna and Carl and assisted by Erik in the office and Officer Blomqvist on the beat are called to solve several unrelated crimes over the course of the novel, a stabbing, an alleged murder and strange goings on at a rural health spa.

The Department of Sensitive Crimes is an unusua
Apr 06, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: giveaways, kindle
3.5 ⭐
Ulf Varg heads up a police department in Malmo that covers unusual & delicate crimes. Like who stabs a man at the knees. And what to do about a group of young women losing their minds over a made-up boyfriend. Not to mention reports of lycanthropy.
This starts slow. But by the middle of the second case, you’ll be enamored of Ulf & his crew, & wondering when you can next spend time with them.
My thanks to Penguin for an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Sid Nuncius
Jan 18, 2019 rated it liked it
Like so many people, I enjoy The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series very much. However, I have never really got on with Alexander McCall Smith’s other work and this remains largely true of this start of a new series.

The Department of Sensitive Crimes is set in an odd little department of the police in Malmo, Sweden. The location is significant: it is the setting for both Wallander and The Bridge and McCall Smith is trying to create a contrast to these classics of Scandi-Noir. Ulf Varg (transl
Scout Maria
Dec 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
A charming and comfortable book. This is my first Alexander McCall Smith, but it was such a quick & relaxing read I think I'll give his No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series a try.
Dec 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
I thought maybe "The Department of Sensitive Crimes" would be mostly a light, funny read, and I was pleasantly surprised as I read to discover that while yes, the team that makes up the department (Ulf, Anna, Erik and Carl … with quirky policeman Blomquist assisting on most cases) and the cases they are assigned DO have many comic, amusing, laughable moments, there are equal measures of serious ideas and interesting, thought-provoking things that are just parts of life (though sometimes one migh ...more
Kylie H
Feb 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is completely in line with the gently philosophical 'No 1 Ladies Detective Agency' series. the central character is Ulf Varg, a Swedish detective with the Department of Sensitive Crimes, where he works with a number of quirky staff who all enjoy discussions about obscure facts and strange observations.
In amongst all this sometimes distracting conversation there are a few mysteries involving a minor stabbing, a missing imaginary boyfriend and a health spa with strange goings on.
Ulf is k
Mar 16, 2019 rated it liked it
As a huge fan of McCall Smith I very mich enjoyed this book and can see a lot of potential (love Blomquist!), but it's not as strong as most of his other books (yet).
Katy Wheatley
Dec 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I was given this to review by Net Galley. I find reading Alexander McCall Smith incredibly soothing. I love the gentle, philosophical nature of the books he writes, the small details, the humour, the wry observations. His crime books never really have crimes in them. They're more an examination of the quirks of human nature. That's not to say that they don't deal with sadness or cruelty, but everything is always on a human scale. Here, Ulf Varg, a detective in the Department of Sensitive Crimes ...more
Donna Lewis
Feb 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I won this book from Good Reads, and I was delighted because I thoroughly enjoy Alexander McCall Smith’s books. This book takes place in Sweden at the DSC (Department of Sensitive Crimes), a police section that deals with the crimes that require a gentle touch. Head of the group is Ulf Varg — rough translation, Wolf Wolf. Reading the names of the characters in the book is like listening to the Swedish Chef on the Muppet Show! The droll humor is not for everyone one, but who doesn’t love reading ...more
Feb 20, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Department of Sensitive Crimes is the first in a new series, by the much-loved author of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series - Alexander McCall Smith. Having written a number of series, it’s always tempting to delve into McCall’s newest writing, as I adore his warmth and philosophical observations. Whilst this proved a very different read, it was still light and quirky with his signature ramblings:

‘Sometimes we stumble over the truth. We think we find it, but it finds us.’
Anna asked,
I know I'm in a minority of crime fiction readers. This was my first novel by Alexander McCall Smith. And, unless I receive another one to review, The Department of Sensitive Crimes will be my last. The slow pace, and the story in which very little happens, is just not for me. I know others love his books, though, so don't let my comments dissuade you from starting this first in a new series.

Ulf Varg (Wolf Wolf in Swedish) heads up a small unit, the Sensitive Crime Department of the Malmo Crimin
Apr 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: partner-read
Thanks to Pantheon Books for the free copy in exchange for my honest review

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
Jan 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Scandinavian crime, à la Alexander McCall Smith, is - as you might expect - an altogether much nicer, gentler affair than the Scandi noir of recent times.

Ulf Varg - both his names mean “wolf” - possibly the kindest man in the Swedish police force, works in the eponymous Department of Sensitive Crimes, where anything a bit odd seems to end up. Ulf loves Nordic art and his dog, Martin, who he has taught to lip read . He’s also rather too fond of his colleague Anna, though that is unfortunately fr
Apr 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Alexander McCall Smith must be a wonderful human being. His decency radiates from every page of every book, whether for children or adults, drawn from anywhere in the world. His characters are complex and sympathetic with a depth that adds great pleasure to a story. A few weeks ago I bought a stand-alone short story introducing The Department of Sensitive Crimes. It was such a tasty morsel, I was delighted when gave me a chance to dig deeper into this delightfully Swedish investiga ...more
Apr 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
The same narrative rhythms present in McCall Smith's other books is present here. I enjoyed the characters, the mesmerizing rhythm and the philosophical ponderings. Blomquist is a fellow traveler of Grace Makutsi. The familiar with a different cast of characters was comforting, which is, I believe, McCall Smith's greatest strength. The short of stature protagonist of the first crime was, I thought, handled rather condescendingly, even, if not especially, by Varg and the last crime was rather thi ...more
Feb 16, 2019 rated it it was ok
I won this ARC in a giveaway. I’ve never read this author, so I’m not sure if the way this story is written is typical of his other books.
I found it very annoying. The detectives would go off, constantly, on these boring, off topic conversations. Also, the cases were really not all that special and I felt the detectives made a lot of assumptions without verifying if they were right.
I didn’t feel this book was interesting at all and the stories weren’t worth telling in a story.
But - that is ju
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Alexander McCall Smith is the author of the international phenomenon The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, the Isabel Dalhousie Series, the Portuguese Irregular Verbs series, and the 44 Scotland Street series. He is professor emeritus of medical law at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and has served on many national and international bodies concerned with bioethics. He was born in what ...more
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“The Germans had a word for everything--a word that could be very focused, very specific, because it could be constructed for a precise set of circumstances. They even had a word, it was said, for the feeling of envy experienced when one sees the tasty dishes ordered by others in a restaurant and it is too late to change one's own order.” 0 likes
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