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Summary

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo introduced us to Scandi noir. Now, welcome to Alexander McCall Smith's world of Scandi blanc....

Ulf Varg works in Malmo's Department of Sensitive Crimes. Like all Scandinavian detectives he has his issues. In his case these include his unresolved feelings for his colleague, Anna; his impatience over the seeming incompetence of his irritating colleague Blomquist; and his concerns for the health of his hearing-impaired dog, Marten, the only dog in Sweden (and possibly all Scandinavia) who is able to lip-read (in Swedish).

Along with his colleagues, Ulf is called upon to investigate a bizarre attack on a market trader, the disappearance of a handsome man who may or may not exist, and the affairs of a variety of young female students whose relationships with one another leave a great deal to be desired.

Ulf and his team come to realise that the world is a puzzling place, lycanthropy (werewolfism) exists and fish might have something to teach us. There is so much to learn if you are a Swedish detective, and in the first book in this new quasi-Scandinavian series, Ulf Varg embarks on these lessons with spirit and good humour.

©2019 Alexander McCall Smith (P)2019 Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd

What listeners say about The Department of Sensitive Crimes

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Another gem

I absolutely adored this. Alexander McCall Smith just always gets it right - a magical blend of kindness, quirkiness and humour. His ability to tell wonderful tales whilst also revealing human nature is quite breathtaking. I love the warmth he always shows his characters in all his books, no matter what their foibles. Tolerance oozes from each chapter, but not in a self righteous way, rather in a warm loving way. Perfect listening. I can’t wait for the second instalment.

5 people found this helpful

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A Charming Meander Leading Nowhere in Particular!

As a regular consumer of so-called Scandi-noir, I have to admit I was quite bewitched by this concept of Scandi-blanc and there's no doubt that McCall-Smith has pulled off something very much in that mode. His charming lead Ulf Varg and the rest are rather pleasant compared to our usual Nordic detectives and associates and Saul Rechlin matches that nicely with his narration.

There is a lovely, almost world-weary wisdom about Varg and co and you should be warned that they pontificate at length either singly or jointly on almost any subject without warning. Dogs learning to lip read was one of my favourites but there were plenty more. The plot, poor thing, does occasionally get a look-in and is sporadically given a lethargic prod to move it along between chats as various, minor crimes flitter towards being the centre of attention.

The book and its denizens definitely have a charm all of their own and I'm still smiling about the concept of Scandi-blanc. However, I have to admit a lot of this just washed over me making it an okay listen but not one that I had a very strong reaction to in any kind of way. It's worth a try I would imagine if you like nice gentle mysteries where the characters rather than the plot take centre stage but otherwise it's all a little insipid.

26 people found this helpful

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An amusing aside

This was a fun story along the lines of "The Number One Ladies' Detective Agency" but set in Sweden. Ulf Warg and colleagues are certainly at the centre of some sensitive crimes although, as usual. this is really a story of human (plus dog and wolf) nature rather than there really being any mystery involved. An enjoyable listen.

4 people found this helpful

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best story and narrator ever

These are deceptively simple stories explaining complex human reactions. I was totally impressed with the narrative communication as wrll as the content.

7 people found this helpful

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sorry but I found this a bit dull and rather odd

sorry but I found this book a bit dull and rather odd. Not sure if people really talk in this strange over-polite manner, although I did like Varg

2 people found this helpful

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Pleasant book but just not for me

I enjoy detective crime thrillers and I an enjoy a series so you can get in to the characters. This book is pleasant no swearing no excessive violence and a possible love story to come. But I'm sorry to say I won't be buying the next book it was too slow for me and nothing to keep your brain going and just a brief who's done it which was solved all to quickly.
As for the narration this was perfect Saul Reichlin is one of the best out there.

2 people found this helpful

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i think I expected something different

expectations are a funny thing, they can cloud an experience. I tried to get into the calm and languid story, like I can with Mme Ramotswe, but the magic was not there. In a lockdown winter the Botswana sun cheers me up, but the Swedish darkness had the reverse effect.

1 person found this helpful

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Not v compelling

As a Swede, this story was really disappointing. There were so many ways it jarred, e.g. the way people addressed each other hasn’t been used since the 70-80’s, the depiction of the armed forces was inaccurate, Swedes would never (except in jest) claim that a mountain research station within the country was a “North Pole station”, and how you consider sauna and nudism isn’t accurate either. Not only did it detract from the story, but it made me question some of the cultural aspects of the “No1 Ladies...” series that I had previously enjoyed. Not a good experience.

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Thoughts

Good in parts but a bit tedious at others. it made me laugh at times

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Narration spoiled it for me...

I really love Alexander McCall Smith and I enjoyed so much other books of his that I listened to. I think this is a good book as well but it's really hard to tell because of the narration. I find McCall Smith's style to be very gentle and nuanced, with a lot of understated humour. However, the narrator's LOUD AND C-L-E-A-R A-R-T-I-C-U-L-A-T-I-O-N was just too heavy handed for this book and for me it killed the life and charm of the writing

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  • Mark
  • 10-11-19

An off beat story with subtle sarcasm narrated by

An off beat story with subtle sarcasm narrated by the master Saul Reichlin. A laid back, easy listening story for the second tier in my library.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 09-07-19

Absolutely loved it

Alexander McCall Smith never fails to write a lovely story. He's by far my favourite author. I always finish his books with a smile and a good feeling and this one was no exeption.