This is the second book in the Van Veeteren series by Swedish mystery writer Hakan Nesser. It is the first that I have read. When Van Veeteren is nearing the end of his vacation on the coast, he gets called in to assist in a serial murder investigation in a nearby town. By the time Van Veeteren is consulted, two have been killed, and the killer has been practically beheading his victims, earning him the title ‘The Axman’ in the press.Van Veeteren joins the local police: Bausen, the chief who is set to retire in one month and who just wants everything closed by then, Kropke, the pompous computer-literate man, and Beate, an ambitious young woman who feels the need to prove herself. Those four, with later one of Van Veeteren’s underlings from the city, attempt to find the killer before too many others die.The mystery was straightforward. It was okay. There was nothing outstanding about it, but it clung together cohesively. There are short sections interspersed between chapters which give outtakes from the killer’s point of view. Between those and the information gathered by the detectives, the reader should be able to figure out the mystery—but not too early in the story. Nesser’s writing-style, however, made the reading difficult at the beginning. He writes in short sentences. Or incomplete sentences. Sentences like I am using right now. To illustrate the point. Making the flow somewhat isolating. Perhaps that was what he was going for. Then he would have achieved it. (I don’t think I can keep it up). His writing construction feels like rapid-fire, catching the reader off guard and making him pay attention (or put the book down). The isolation achieved by the writing construction further adds to the wonderful descriptions of the atmosphere and to the passive attitudes of the characters to give the book a well-developed sense of place. The other good point, in addition to the formation of setting, is the characters. Most of them are not very likable, but they are very real. In a genre that is full of clichéd, contrived, or condensed characters (some of whom are in very good books—nothing against them), it is refreshing to find an author who can hit the mark. I wouldn’t recommend this book for everybody, but if you like atmospheric novels with real, though not particularly endearing, characters and with a bit of crime to work through, you will probably like this book. I will buy the next one.