The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is an international sensation, both as a book and as a movie. Reading the book, it is easy to see why. Fair warning: Do not read this book if you are not prepared to have 590 pages take over large portions of your life until you finish it. There are few good stopping places, so when you put the book down, you will find yourself thinking about what’s happening until you get back to it again.
Larsson was a brilliant writer who died of a heart attack at the age of 50 in 2004. His main character, Mikael Blomkvist, may have been modeled on himself, as Larsson was also a crusading journalist who received death threats as a result of articles he had written. In fact, there was speculation that his heart attack may have been somehow induced, but those rumors were denied by his publisher.
In The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Blomkvist has fallen for an incredibly clever hoax which leads to a libel trial, forcing him to lie low for a while. He is hired by Henrik Vanger, an aged executive in a major Swedish company, to investigate the disappearance of his niece Harriet over 40 years earlier. The old man has been obsessed for years with the case, and he wants closure before he dies. Blomkvist enlists pierced, tattooed, and antisocial Lisbeth Salander to help with the investigation. Along the way, they discover layers and layers of corruption, mystery, and intrigue in the Vanger family and the tiny village of Hedestad and even smaller island of Hedeby.
This novel is fast-paced, engrossing, and frustrating in the best possible way. Every time one mystery is solved, something else happens before you even have time to wonder what comes next. Blomkvist and Solandar are fascinating characters, and their relationship is unique. The extremely dysfunctional Vanger family provide endless surprises and secrets for the pair to explore.
The story that unfolds is as dark and cold as Sweden itself, but will never, for one moment, bore or cease to surprise you. There is a lot of sex and violence, often combined in graphic prose. Even outside of the main plot, Salandar’s story is a dark, intriguing enigma in itself.
It is a shame that Larsson died after completing the three books in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo trilogy; I could have easily read many more books about Blomkvist and Salandar.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is highly recommended for the reader who likes smart, complex puzzles and unusual, complex characters. You won’t quickly forget Blomkvist or Salandar.
Luckily, we also have The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked Over the Hornet’s Nest.