There are some personal details that make Inspector Van Veeteren anything but ordinary: his escape with the scented candle, bathtub, and beer for one. The clever wit is required, of course. But what makes the pace work so well is that there isn't too many personal details...the story is the focus rather than character studies. Some might be disappointed in that, but nobody comes off as vague. They simply are part of a greater whole which is the search for a serial killer. After reading more of this series, one would no doubt pick up on more character details of the other policemen.
This novel is also lean in content (in a good way) and action based. If characters go to dinner, you don't have to plod through pages of details about what they ate or how the fish tasted. It is far too snappy to waste time on that, rather, you are allowed to follow the steps of the investigation (kind of like the old Homicide: Life on the Street series) as it twists through the partner's heckling and the gripes of the underlings.
I suggest reading this in as close to one sitting as you can, and on a good cold day if you want to really get into it. The Scandinavian landscape makes you shiver as you read, and it's not just the crime. I appreciated that this novel wasn't overtly gory or shocking (not Jeffrey Deaver, thank goodness). A great detective story that could easily become a television series with this unique Inspector.
special thanks to J. Kals at Pantheon Books for this Advanced Reader's Copy