It’s never quite clear in the story what Detective Varg’s talent is, because the narrative doesn’t poke you in the eye with it. Rather, in smooth outward ripples from the story’s core, we see that Ulf Varg’s true talent is being able to perceive and understand everyone’s side in tricky situations and to choose the most peaceful and productive—and diplomatic—solution ... poignancy...underlies so many moments in the novel ... McCall Smith’s novels share the same intellectual and emotional investigation through quirky characters who are kind, open-minded, humane, and/or humorous. This combination doesn’t sound very exciting, but it is when you like thinking. McCall Smith’s characters think their way through the kinds of quandaries that stump readers in daily life ...
Most appealing, we get to see how others solve problems like ours and emerge on the upside. These qualities keep us turning pages with eager interest and pangs of empathy, instead of heart-pounding, sweaty palmed suspense.
... tricky ethical nooks and crannies in Malmö, Sweden ... Cheerful or melancholy, irritated or resigned, Detective Varg gives the reader more dry wit, inspired whimsy and comic pleasure than any other Swedish investigator in the business.
Fans of Ulf’s debut in The Department of Sensitive Crimes... or the author’s other gently reflective franchises won’t be surprised or disappointed to learn that most of the crimes here aren’t really crimes, and Ulf’s crime-solving talents are highly questionable ... McCall Smith’s great gift is making you shelve your genre-honed expectations and accept his people and stories as they are.