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Wednesday, February 20, 2019

The Department of Sensitive Crimes

Title:  The Department of Sensitive Crimes
A Detective Varg novel
Author: Alexander McCall SmithPublisher: 12th February 2019 by Hachette Australia
Pages: 240 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: General Fiction (Adult) , Mystery & Thrillers
My Rating: 3 crowns

From the beloved and bestselling author of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series comes a lighthearted comedic novel about a Swedish police department tasked with solving the most unusual, complicated, and, often, insignificant crimes.
The detectives who work in Malmo Police's Department of Sensitive Crimes take their job very seriously. The lead detective, Ulf Varg, prioritizes his cases above even his dog's mental health. Then there are detectives Anna Bengsdotter, who keeps her relationship with Varg professional even as she realizes she's developing feelings for him . . . or at least for his car, and Carl Holgersson, first to arrive in the morning and last to leave, who would never read his colleagues' personal correspondence--unless it could help solve a crime, of course. Finally, there's Erik Nykvist, who peppers conversations with anecdotes about fly fishing.
Along with an opinionated local police officer named Blomquist, the Department of Sensitive Crimes takes on three extremely strange cases. First, the detectives investigate how and why a local business owner was stabbed . . . in the back of the knee. Next, a young woman's imaginary boyfriend goes missing. And, in the final investigation, Varg must determine whether nocturnal visitations at a local spa have a supernatural element.
Using his renowned wit and warmth, Alexander McCall Smith brings a unique perspective on Scandinavian crime. Equal parts hilarious and heartening, The Department of Sensitive Crimes is a tour de farce from a literary master.

My Thoughts

The Department of Sensitive Crimes is the first in a new series, by the much-loved author of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series -  Alexander McCall Smith. Having written a number of series, it’s always tempting to delve into McCall’s newest writing, as I adore his warmth and philosophical observations. Whilst this proved a very different read, it was still light and quirky with his signature ramblings:

‘Sometimes we stumble over the truth. We think we find it, but it finds us.’
Anna asked, ‘Does that matter? What counts is the result, not the route by which one reaches the result. it’s often all a matter of luck.’
Ulf pondered this. The role of luck in human affairs had always intrigued him. So much of what we did was influenced by factors that were beyond our control –the vagaries of others, sequences of events that we initiated in ignorance of where they would lead, chance meetings that led to the making of a decision that would change our life.’

I am a huge fan of McCall's No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency and have delved into some of his other tales but sadly this one was not up there with my favourites even though it follows a similar vein as No.1 Ladies. We have a detective working on quirky cases who contemplates and passes observations. The ‘crime’ side of the novel is very gentle, much like No.1 Ladies.  The problem I feel is that, that being character driven, Ulf and associated characters do not portray the same charms as Mma Ramotswe and crew. It seemed to lack that unique attraction and heartfelt engagement of the African plains. Maybe it was not transferable to Sweden?

Still, it is McCall’s writing that I enjoy and a pleasant enough read, sprinkled with the musings that we have come to love and expect.

‘There were subtleties in the claiming of space; we staked out our territory on beaches, small squares of sand to which we felt entitled to return after our swim; we created all sorts of unseen boundaries, temporary and informal, by leaving our possessions on seats and benches  – a jacket left on a chair made a claim every bit as specific and discouraging as a notice of legal title. This is mine –I’m coming back. Don’t think of sitting here.’

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This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Homestead on the River

Title: Homestead on the River
Author: Rosie Mackenzie
Publisher: 29th January 2019 by Harlequin Australia, HQ (Fiction, Non Fiction, YA) & MIRA
Pages: 512 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction
My Rating: 3 crowns


An unforgettable tale of love, loss and betrayal from an exciting new Australian voice in historical fiction. In stark contrast to her own childhood during the last days of the Raj in India, the spectacular beauty surrounding their home, Rathgarven in Ireland has proven to be a happy place for Kathleen O'Sullivan and her husband, James, to raise their four children. But Kathleen is no stranger to heartbreak, and when the family is faced with losing everything, she knows they will need to adapt to survive. Even if that means leaving their beloved home and moving to Australia to start afresh.

Lillie O'Sullivan knows that her mother and father haven't been entirely truthful about the reasons for their move to Australia. But as they settle into their new home in rural New South Wales she is willing to give it a chance. That is, until the secrets her parents have kept for so long finally catch up with them.

Secrets that have the power to destroy their family and ruin their future.

From the vibrant colours of India to the meadows of Ireland to the harsh but beautiful Australian land, a family fights for their future.

My Thoughts

A somewhat epic family saga spanning around the world, from Ireland to Australia and set in the 1960s. This tale centres around a family who have to give up their family estate in Ireland and are forced take up a new adventure in outback Australia.

Whilst it seems appealing, there is a lot going on with this book trying to do too much in my opinion. There is a large cast of characters with backstories to match, full of many dramas.  However, few are dealt with in a way to engage the reader sufficiently despite the 500+ page reading. There really is not that much set in the last days of Raj, India which is rather disappointing - a cryptic prologue to try and engage the reader is about it. We then move to Ireland where the father loses the family estate which all seems rather unbelievable and out of character. There is this ‘mystery’ held over the reader for the entire book and it is not until the last 10% of the book that anything really happens with regards to a few key plot lines.

The story of two generations contains love and loss, secrets and betrayal with their  impact upon many of the family members. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot on offer with this read, but I felt that a condensed version focused purely on certain characters would have produced a more engaging and in depth read - certain sections were just too simplistic with the writing lacking depth. It rambles on a bit with some passages and interactions either irrelevant or drawn out for far too long.

The characters are, however, relatable and engaging (although I did have a real problem with Lillie’s reaction to her shock twist towards the end, as once again it seemed out of character) as it sweeps over many drama filled moments 1960s style.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.