There is nothing noir about the world of Ulf Varg, Detective Inspector in the Sensitive Crimes Department of the Criminal Investigation Authority for the city of Malmö, Sweden. Ulf is concerned with odd, but not too threatening crimes, such as a stab wound to the back of the knee caused by an unknown hand, young women who allow their desperation for a boyfriend to get the better of them, and peculiar goings-on in a spa on Sweden’s south coast.
Of course, Ulf is a Swedish detective, and Swedish detectives, by convention, lead lives beset with problems of one sort or another. For a start, there is his name: Ulf means “wolf” in modern Swedish, and Varg derives from the Old Norse word for “wolf”. But his character is far from vulpine: Ulf is a sympathetic, well-educated, and likeable man, with a knowledge of and interest in Scandinavian- and modern art. He has a dog named Marten, the only dog in Sweden capable of lip-reading (but only in Swedish). Martin becomes depressed and needs treatment. Dogs in Sweden are apparently particularly prone to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). But this is summer—so there must be something else going on.
Ulf has a number of colleagues into whose lives we gain insight. There is Anna, married to an anaesthetist, but very fond of Ulf; Erik, whose sole interest is fishing; Carl, whose father is a famous Lutheran theologian who has written a book on Danish philosopher Kierkegaard; then there is Blomquist from the uniformed branch, who goes on and on about his health problems but seems to have extraordinary luck in investigations. There is also Ulf’s psychotherapist, Dr. Svensson, whose observations on Ulf’s life—and many other topics—enlightens…or possibly confuses.
The Department of Sensitive Crimes is the first full-length novel in the Detective Varg series.
I have some really huge reviews coming up from my to review list so I thought I would go with a lighter review today!
So, let’s talk about this book.
This was actually pretty hilarious, it’s a parody really, as it says in the blurb more of a ‘Scandinavian Blanc’ than ‘Scandinavian Noir.’ And let me tell you after reading a lot of serious reads, this was really such a great break from it all.
Smith knows how to toe the line when it comes to the parodies, it’s still a full story in its own right with a hilarious cast, even if they don’t know they’re being laughed at, and a really simple and brilliant attempt at humor.
So often we take everything so seriously and I do indeed love noir, and for me that made this read even more enjoyable because I knew all these exaggerations and loved them all in Noir books.
First off, our detective’s name is Ulf Varg, his name is freakin WOLF WOLF [Anyone wanna just dive into Moon Moon names now? No? Just me?] and he owns a deaf dog that he’s taught to lip read and has perhaps seasonal depression.
*Depression is not something to laugh at, but the exaggeration of the dog having it is what was funny.*
The rest of the department was equally as hilarious, one obsessed with fishing, another almost too perfectly married, and one more who was so devoted to the job that he almost enjoyed staying late or arriving early to fill out forms.
The cases were equally as funny and over-exaggerated in their ‘casting’ and the crimes.
All of these ‘odd’ or long-winded scenes and passages were done so on purpose to give us all a chuckle because let’s face it, no matter how much you love a drama, sometimes we can appreciate the absurd.
Anyway, it was hilariously overly verbose and dramatic and I was 100% there for it.
A series that you don’t have to worry about falling behind with as it seems that each novel will be a perfect laugh hopefully, this is the first book but I do plan on reading the next!
Bring on more wolf wolf!! 4/5 Cups of hot chocolate from me this winter