“Sometimes we stumble over the truth. We think we find it, but it finds us.”
Have you heard of ‘Scandi-noir“? (a.k.a. “Nordic-noir”)
I had, but only vaguely. In case you’re as innocent of this relatively new, darkly disturbing crime fiction as I was until recently, it’s meant to be a bit of a cultural expose uncovering creepy elements of society purportedly lurking beneath the calm surface of life in northern European countries.
You may recall a recent post I wrote about Lagom (the Swedish concept of balance and harmony)… Well, in the words of Alan Bradley, here’s what we’re now encountering:
“With astounding heart and mind, Alexander McCall Smith launches a bold and original new series. With The Department of Sensitive Crimes, he invents a new and compassionate genre: Scandi Blanc…”
Ulf Varg is a detective who lives and works in Malmo, Sweden. From an inconspicuous office, he leads a small team in solving crimes which are beyond the scope (or beneath the notice) of the regular police force, while stoically enduring the occasional joke about his names, which both translate as ‘wolf.’
In classic Alexander McCall Smith style, we are invited into the personal as well as the professional life of our protagonist…
We learn the sad history of his failed marriage and meet his therapist; “Dr. Svensson had once counselled him to think of the things you’re doing rather than the things you did. It was useful advice- he knew that- even if the therapist liked to claim he was not dispensing advice, but helping him to work out what was the best thing to do. That was the trouble with Dr. Svensson, thought Ulf: he often denied that he was there- an odd thing to do, especially when you charged so much for being present.”
We also get to know Ulf’s deaf labradoodle (Martin) and Mrs. Hogfors, the retired neighbour who cares for him while while Ulf’s at work… “Martin loved Mrs. Hogfors, and she adored him in return, allowing him to sleep on her sofa, feeding him a constant diet of fattening treats, and refusing to countenance any talk of faults on his part.”
Ulf’s co-workers are endearingly human and amusingly Swedish. But don’t expect to find nothing more than a lot of crime detection and platonic social interactions. Ulf is in love, and it’s heart-rending to delve a bit into the two sides of that ill-fated relationship…
I highly recommend this mentally and emotionally provocative novel to anyone who enjoys life. It’s not heavy, but with the light touch he’s famous for, this brilliant author hits another home run.
Have you read other books/ series by Alexander McCall Smith?
What do you think of this new series?
Thank you for reading with me!