Review of The Talented Mr. Varg by Alexander McCall Smith

A Droll Detective and a Lip-Reading Dog

Alexander McCall Smith makes the irrelevant relevant in The Talented Mr. Varg (Pantheon), a satirical social commentary on the mundane.

Ulf Varg is not your average police inspector — a Scandinavian art enthusiast who loves books about cooking, travel, art and the krimis crime novels he reads for pure entertainment. He’s a sensitive man in a perfectly sensible job — a detective with the Department of Sensitive Crimes — in Malmö, Sweden. Of course, he routinely corrects people after introductions when they mistake it for The Department of Sensible Crimes, or The Department of Strange Affairs. But such is life.

Varg listens to “the same old complaints of humanity.” Isn’t that the job of a detective? But too often, he catches himself contemplating the meaning of life, sometimes fearing he might just be too sensitive for the work he must do.

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