The chronicler of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency (The Colors of All the Cattle, 2018, etc.) and 44 Scotland Street (A Time of Love and Tartan, 2018, etc.) takes on Nordic noir. Guess who comes out on top.
The staff of Malmö’s Sensitive Crimes Department are pretty sensitive themselves. Ulf Varg worries what sorts of life choices will be left to him once he turns 40. Anna Bengsdotter, married to an anaesthetist, is secretly in love with Ulf, and he with her. Carl Holgersson shoulders most of the squad’s actual work out of a cheerful sense of duty. Clerical assistant Erik Nykvist fishes whenever he can and dreams of his retirement, when he expects to fish even more. The group is evidently assigned to investigate crimes too marginal and quirky for anyone else in law enforcement. Why would someone stab market trader Malte Gustafsson painfully but ineffectually behind his knee? Has university student Bim Sundström's boyfriend gone to the North Pole, as she claims, or has she actually done away with him? (Not-really-a-spoiler alert: She’s made him up in response to her chums’ nonstop questions about her love life.) And why has someone launched a social media attack that seems intended to put the spa run by Police Commissioner Felix Ahlström’s cousin out of business? Tearing himself from the side of Marten, the beloved poodle mix he’s taught to cope with his deafness by lip-reading, Ulf and his cohort reluctantly partner with uniformed officer Blomquist to bring the parties involved to justice.
Fans of the bestselling author’s long-running franchises won’t be surprised by the two most distinctive features of the gravely waggish department’s caseload: The mysteries seem both utterly inconsequential and quietly provocative, and they have long tails that continue to flop around even after they’re nominally solved.