cover image The Department of Sensitive Crimes

The Department of Sensitive Crimes

Alexander McCall Smith. Pantheon, $24.95 (240p) ISBN 978-1-5247-4822-7

Ulf Varg, the lead detective in this appealing series launch from Smith (the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series), works for the Sensitive Crimes Department of the Malmö, Sweden, Criminal Investigation Authority. He and his colleagues, including married Anna Bengsdotter, on whom the divorced Ulf has a guilty crush, investigate minor crimes, such as the nonfatal stabbing of a market vendor in the back of the knee. Ulf easily figures out whodunit, the focus being on why the culprit, basically a decent man, did the deed and his subsequent treatment within the justice system. Another case involves a lonely young woman, Bim Sundström, who invents an imaginary boyfriend, Sixten, to impress others. Complications ensue when Bim claims that Sixten, a medical student, has suddenly left her and gone off to a research station at the North Pole. A third case concerns a purported werewolf, whose nocturnal howls are driving away customers from a resort spa. As usual, the interpersonal relationships Smith so sensitively portrays and the ethical issues he raises matter far more than the sleuthing. Fans of gentle mysteries will look forward to the sequel. Agent: Robin Straus, Robin Straus Agency. (Mar.)