cover image The Man with the Silver Saab

The Man with the Silver Saab

Alexander McCall Smith. Pantheon, $27 (256p) ISBN 978-0-5933-1610-8

In Smith’s delightful third mystery featuring Malmö, Sweden, police detective Ulf Varg (after 2020’s The Talented Mr. Varg), art historian Anders Kindgren has been plagued for months by a series of “nasty little events,” starting with someone stuffing rotten fish into his car hood air vents. Now the stakes have risen. A painting he recently authenticated has been discovered to be a forgery. Certain that a forgery was substituted for the original after his evaluation, Kindgren wants Ulf, the thoughtful, tolerant head of the Department of Sensitive Crimes, to catch the person trying to besmirch his reputation. The gossamer-thin plot is almost irrelevant. The novel’s pleasures lie in Ulf’s philosophical asides and comments on how to live a good, just life: “It was hard to remain tolerant; it was hard to do the right thing; but we simply had no alternative. Oppression and violence brought sorrow—and more violence.” Smith’s gift is to use crime as a structure for writing about morality and making it such a pleasure to read. This is a refreshing change from the standard Scandinavian noir fare. (July)