Book Review: The Department of Sensitive Crimes by Alexander McCall Smith

by V. Shalace [February 10, 2022]

Book Cover for The Department of Sensitive Crimes

This was one of the least stressful detective stories I have ever read, and I mean that as a compliment.

The book follows Detective Ulf and several other characters whose lives touch his own through a series of cases brought to the attention of the Department of Sensitive Crimes in Sweden where he works. These cases range from investigating strange incidents causing negative reviews for a spa hotel to hunting down the truth behind a missing, imaginary boyfriend. Scenes from his investigations are interspersed with scenes between Ulf and his therapist where the two discuss the strange things that people sometimes do.

There was a subtle humor throughout the story that I appreciated, often emerging from small, random coincidences and comments about the way people think and act. While some moments were more serious, like the army officer scheming to cause the death of a criminal assigned to do community service under his command, for the most part, Ulf dealt with ordinary people doing foolish or silly things for everyday reasons.

Moreover, the main character Ulf came across to me as someone kind, someone who sympathizes with others—even some of the people he has to arrest. Although upholding the law is important, he treats everyone with respect and tries to be considerate of other people’s feelings. Having a character like that as the protagonist generally improves my impression of a book. After all, when I read, I’m settling down to spend several hours with these characters. It’s important to me that they be characters I like as people.

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