Inspector Van Veeteren is the real gem in this budding series of police procedural novels written by Swede Hakan Nesser. Van Veeteren is the classic chief inspector--crotchety, brusque, prone to flashes of insight gained from mundane life, and a soft spot for his junior partner.
Whether he's driving around listening to Monteverdi or grousing about his upcoming surgery, the inspector manages to make the book funny and interesting. Nesser somehow manages to write just a little bit differently about life and happiness, and he injects reality into his characters that make them endearing. The plot is not all that gripping, but Mr. Nesser moves the storyline along nicely without getting bogged down in meaningless descriptions or red herrings.
At the end of the day, however, the characters make the book. Van Veeteren is the center, but his coworkers and associates are ones you'd like to get to know. Using his native Sweden makes Nesser's books even more interesting to the US audience that is just learning to love this author worthy to share the table with Henning Mankell.