Scandinavian sleuths may be eminently relatable and fallible but—and here's the important part—they still get their man. It's just that rather than relying on the brilliant feats of deduction exhibited by Sherlock Holmes or the formidable fists and cocky wisecracks of Robert Parker's Spenser, these ordinary schlubs have no flashier alternative than to knuckle down and gut it out. Occasionally their efforts do turn out to be pointless; Nordic noir abounds in red herrings and wild goose chases. And lest you assume that life as a public servant is what has relegated these detectives to a life of ego-grinding routine, they're surrounded by other characters in much the same boat. Take Wallander's father: he's an "artist" whose entire career has consisted of painting the same woodland scene over and over again in nearly identical copies (some pictures have a grouse in them, and some don't).
Read the rest of Laura Miller on the appeal of Scandinavian crime fiction.