“The Department of Sensitive Crimes”

 “The Department of Sensitive Crimes” by Älexander McCall Smith features Ulf Varg, and fellow detectives Anna Bengtsdotter and Carl Holgersson along with clerical assistant Erik Nykvist who work behind an unmarked doorway, room 5, home of the Sensitive Crimes Department. Cases are sent to them if the resources of local police are strained, or if the cases might require complicated investigations. The progress on the “sensitive” investigations is interspersed with casual conversations and day-to-day activities.

The stories center on Ulf and his work on the investigations. Readers get a glimpse of his troubled personal life. Ulf feels that sometimes he is standing by the brink of waters that are both deep and dangerous. He goes to a psychologist and has a deaf dog, Martin, whom he taught to read lips and who may need a psychologist as well. He is observant to the smallest details. “Ulf could see a frayed shoelace in somebody’s shoe and spin from that an entire theory as to who that person was, what motivated him, what he did for a living, and even more.”

The team has very definite views on criminal trials. ”The defendant is always small and powerless when up against the state. “ They profess that “All suspects should be given the chance to telephone their lawyers or their mothers…After all, your mother is far more likely to believe in your innocence than you lawyer.” They do believe in their work. “Life is complicated…And we exist to uncomplicate it.”

To the team, every inquiry is important, serious, and personal. Three cases take the forefront, a motorcycle mechanic who has been stabbed in the back of his knee, a college student, majoring in human geography, whose imaginary boyfriend is missing, and a spa that is loosing money. They diligently search for answers. No detail is insignificant, not biker gangs, political correctness, nor bullying. No search is tedious, not dance studios, nude beaches, nor The North Pole; the team is determined to solve every case. The investigations proceed with a friendly yet dedicated focus on finding not only the “who” and “what” of the crime but the “why.” In some cases, the “why” is the most interesting part of the case.

“The Department of Sensitive Crimes” by Älexander McCall Smith engages readers and smoothly transitions from one page to the other. The camaraderie is balanced by the cases, and cases are complicated in the Sensitive Crimes Division.

I received this book as a gift from someone who knows my love of reading. I enjoyed every page and every always complicated, always entertaining, always surprising, and always enjoyable-to-read case. A big “Thank You” goes to Allison for knowing my reading choices very well. Need to buy a gift? This is a great one for any reader.