Defective Detective Departments

What happens when cranky, poorly motivated or seemingly-incompetent individuals are all sidelined together into a single work unit? They end up solving the mysteries that no one else could, of course. Or, at least, in fiction they do. These books are all the first in series that find professional pariahs taking care of business.

The Keeper of Lost Causes
by Jussi Adler-Olsen
Chief Detective Carl Morck has always been difficult to get along with, but he was tolerated because he was good at his job. Sidelined after a shooting left him injured and his partner paralyzed, Carl finds himself dubiously in charge of Department Q, responsible for cold cases. With just a lackluster assistant, Assad, Carl starts investigating the 5-year-old disappearance of politician Merete Lynggaard. The reader knows Lynggaard is still alive; can Carl and Assad find her? While darkly humorous, this novel shares elements with other Scandinavian Noir mysteries such as Steig Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, including some violence and a more somber undertone.

The Awkward Squad by Sophie Hénaff
French police officer Anne Capestan, on suspension for injudiciously firing her service weapon, expects to be fired. Instead, she’s put in charge of a new squad of misfits, including an officer considered bad luck and one who uses coworkers as inspiration for TV crime drama scripts. Consigned to a satellite office, they’re given boxes of cold cases to sift through. When Capestan and her crew start investigating the separate murders of an old woman and a sailor, the rest of the police force may not be prepared for what they find. With a light tone and humorous banter among the characters, this novel is a light read with a compellingly twisty set of mysteries at its heart.

The Department of Sensitive Crimes
by Alexander McCall Smith
McCall Smith, author of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, is back with this first in a new series. Ulf Varg has been placed in charge of Malmö, Sweden’s Department of Sensitive Crimes, the group relegated to investigating crimes that are too minor or weird for the main Criminal Investigation Authority to deal with. Ulf and his quirky colleagues investigate three crimes: a market vendor who was stabbed in the knee; the disappearance of a made-up boyfriend; and the reports of a werewolf at a spa in the nighttime. As with McCall Smith’s other books, character thoughts and interpersonal relationships take the lead in the narrative, while the various mysteries investigated give the reader a look into Swedish society and culture.

~ posted by Andrea G.

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