THE INSPECTOR AND SILENCE

By Håkan Nesser, translated by Laurie Thompson (Pantheon, 288 pages, $25)

Swedish author Håkan Nesser is yet another Nordic crime mystery writer whose books have deservedly found an audience with U.S. readers. His latest to reach these shores, "The Inspector and Silence," is a newly translated late-1990s story of a Scandinavian religious group whose summer camp for teenage girls suddenly begins losing guests. Chief Inspector Van Veeteren, on the verge of retirement, is dispatched from a bigger-city police unit to look into one girl's disappearance, and confronts distrust and silence. He is the perfect detective for the job -- ploddingly thorough and cerebral, with keen intuition about the darker reaches of the human character. This book is the fifth Van Veeteren mystery translated for the U.S. market, although Nesser has written many more books that have been wildly popular in Europe. One unusual thing about Nesser's books is that they are set in what is obviously a Scandinavian country, though it is not identified. That vagueness, though, doesn't detract from this riveting tale.

DAVID SHAFFER, BUSINESS REPORTER/EDITOR

GUMPTION: LESSONS ON OLD AGE, LONELINESS AND A HOTDISH

By Faye Berger (North Star Press, 194 pages, $14.95)

"Gumption" is a peculiar book, yet utterly and unexpectedly compelling for anyone worried about a widowed father living alone -- or perhaps if you are that widower, wondering exactly how to live without a wife who always made all of life's arrangements. Minneapolis author Faye Berger has in some ways written her father's memoir, having talked extensively with Russ Albrecht during the years after his wife, Lorraine, died. In those conversations, Berger learned about "the Gang," a group of fellow widowers in the small western Minnesota town of Morgan. They're mildly notorious, carpooling to area cafes and even taking cruises together. But the story also is about how Russ, since deceased, became the go-to guy to call when someone fell or needed a meal or just craved company. "Gumption" is about a support group for those who rarely get the attention: widowers of a certain age trying to figure out their new lives. Anyone from a small town will recognize the small hurdles of religion, occupation and finances they overcome, and a son or daughter from anywhere may take Russ' story as a sort of guideline for the next of life's turns.

KIM ODE, STAFF WRITER