Monday, May 29, 2023

The Strange Case of the Moderate Extremists (Detective Varg #0.8), by Alexander McCall Smith

Penguin Random House, ISBN 9781984898524, February 2019

Detective Ulf Varg is the head of the Department of Sensitive Crimes for the Malmรถ police. It's important to understand that this is not the Special Victims Unit. The cases they get are...strange. Odd. Possibly a bit weird, sometimes.

The case that comes to them, one fine morning, involves a champion pedigreed cat, a Burmese, belonging to a breeder of Oriental cats. The breeder, with this particular cat, attended a cat show. The cat was bred to a champion male, and the entire expected litter was pre-sold.

When the kittens were born, they were clearly not purebred Burmese, and the breeder has a huge problem.

One aspect of this is a rumor that her champion Burmese female wasn't really purebred. A story then emerges that a person, never seen clearly enough to be identified, snuck in a big, rangy, street tom, and put him into the Burmese female's crate. Nature took its course, and the mixed-breed litter was the result. Sabotage, rather than fraud.

Ulf and his partner, Anna, have to figure out the truth.

That's their official case. Ulf's brother, Bjorn, is the leader of a political party called the Moderate Extremists. They have great ambitions, but they're polling at about 1%, as are their main rivals, the Extreme Moderates. Ulf and Bjorn don't see eye to eye on politics, at all, and maintain their closeness as brothers by not discussing politics, ever. So it's a real surprise when Bjorn calls Ulf and asks for help with a political problem. Someone is leaking sensitive party information to their rivals, the Extreme Moderates. This could shake Bjorn's position as the head of the Moderate Extremists.

Very, very reluctantly, Ulf agrees to do a quiet, private investigation.

If you've read McCall Smith's other mysteries, you know hard-hitting crime investigation isn't the point, here. It's good people, some more good than others, trying to solve problems and make the world a little better. There are interesting and likable characters here, each with their own problems, and basic decency. It's enjoyable.

No, I have no idea how McCall Smith's depiction of at least part of Sweden's political world will look to Swedes. My provisional assumption is that the specific parties mentioned are detached enough from reality to not cause any great offense,

I bought this this story.

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