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Buy The Talented Mr Varg: A Detective Varg novel by Alexander McCall Smith from Australia's Online Independent Bookstore, Boomerang Books.
Book DetailsISBN: 9781408712757
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Book Review: The Talented Mr Varg: A Detective Varg novel by Alexander McCall Smith - Reviewed by CloggieA (12 May 2020)
5 stars The Talented Mr Varg is the second book in the Detective Varg series by popular British author, Alexander McCall-Smith. In his role as senior officer of Malmo’s Department of Sensitive Crimes, Detective Ulf Varg has to deal with a minor assault case with cultural sensitivities, fifteen reticent witnesses, and extenuating circumstances revealed too late. The sequelae involve a (probably stolen) Saab front grille that puts Varg in quite an awkward spot. His clever solution backfires rather badly.
His therapist, Dr Svensson sends Varg to group therapy at a Wholeness Centre where he indulges in a bit of car/personality analysis. Anna, the married colleague with whom he tries so hard not to be in love, makes a request of Varg which might present a less honourable man with a dilemma, when she reveals certain suspicions involving an earring and underwear.
When he asks that crashing health bore, Officer Blomquist (lately seconded to the Department of Sensitive Crimes but frustrated by his non-existent case-load) to join him in some covert surveillance concerning this request, he discovers that underneath his generalisations and his endless rambling on carbohydrates and sleep apnoea, fungal infections and garlic, the policeman is actually very perceptive and resourceful.
Meanwhile, one of the participants from the group therapy asks Varg to investigate an alleged case of blackmail. She maintains that her partner, Sweden’s answer to Hemingway, is being blackmailed. But this, if it is indeed blackmail, is, Varg learns, blackmail with a twist.
Being rather philosophical, Varg’s musings often go off on tangents that end up producing thoughts that are insightful, amusing and sometimes, bizarre: “… there are no songs about the fauna of the large intestine” and what sort of car God or the devil might drive. Varg’s opinion of installation art seems to agree with that of Angus Lordie from Scotland Street. And Varg finds he agrees with his neighbour and dog-sitter regarding politicians’ lack of qualifications for running the country.
With his colleagues, Varg often ends up discussing a range of topics as diverse as tattoos and angels. Between them they come up with a creative way to circumvent some obstructive requirements for obtaining supplies stemming from bureaucratic departmental antipathy. The privacy of personal messages is in question.
There seems to be some confusion about Varg’s marital status: clearly, married once; but thereafter, variously (from the series prequel, book #1 and several short stories), Varg is either widowed early in his marriage when his wife drowns; or divorced from the wife who left him for her hypnotist. In this instalment, both! Which points to poor copy-editing.
As with each instalment of this series, this one is very much tongue in cheek, the philosophy laced with plenty of silliness, irony and not a few turns in the plot. Occasionally poignant and often laugh-out-loud funny, this is, as expected. a very entertaining read. The Bolinda Audio version is expertly narrated by Saul Reichlin.
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