Murder mystery, family saga, love story, and financial intrigue combine into one satisfyingly complex and entertainingly atmospheric novel, the first in Stieg Larsson’s thrilling Millenium series featuring Lisbeth Salander.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Harriet Vanger, a scion of one of Sweden’s wealthiest families disappeared over forty years ago. All these years later, her aged uncle continues to seek the truth. He hires Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist recently trapped by a libel conviction, to investigate. He is aided by the pierced and tattooed punk prodigy Lisbeth Salander. Together they tap into a vein of unfathomable iniquity and astonishing corruption.
Book Review by Nick Nicholas, MSW
Although this book is the first of a trilogy (now a tetralogy thanks to an author working from the manuscripts Larsson left behind prior to his untimely death), it stands well on its own right. It is a dark and moody book, much like Sweden in which the book is set, and much like the character for whom the book is named. The text does not grab the reader immediately with graphic descriptions of horrific events. It begins almost pianimissimo and in a molto adagio style (with a few moments of high tension scattered through the book) rises towards a crescendo towards the end as the protagonist is captured by the villain and escape seemed impossible. These musical metaphors are quite apt because the book moves like a Mozartian symphony.
The two central characters are well fleshed out. Even the bizarre appearance and behavior of Lisbeth Salander becomes nor only acceptable but also understandable. Mikael Blomkvist, the ostensible protagonist (or is the titular “girl with the dragon tattoo” the true protagonist of this novel?), receives a great deal of attention from the author, but his role is more expository rather than a study in character. Lisbeth Salander is very much a study in character, and even though she is missing from key scenes, even large swaths of the book, yet her brooding presence never disappears entirely.
This truly was one of those rare books you never wanted to end, and even through The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo stands well on its own as a novel, I look forward to reading other books in the series.
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Amazon Best of the Month, September 2008: Once you start The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, there’s no turning back. This debut thriller–the first in a trilogy from the late Stieg Larsson–is a serious page-turner rivaling the best of Charlie Huston and Michael Connelly. Mikael Blomkvist, a once-respected financial journalist, watches his professional life rapidly crumble around him. Prospects appear bleak until an unexpected (and unsettling) offer to resurrect his name is extended by an old-school titan of Swedish industry. The catch–and there’s always a catch–is that Blomkvist must first spend a year researching a mysterious disappearance that has remained unsolved for nearly four decades. With few other options, he accepts and enlists the help of investigator Lisbeth Salander, a misunderstood genius with a cache of authority issues. Little is as it seems in Larsson’s novel, but there is at least one constant: you really don’t want to mess with the girl with the dragon tattoo. —Dave Callanan
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Cases rarely come much colder than the decades-old disappearance of teen heiress Harriet Vanger from her family’s remote island retreat north of Stockholm, nor do fiction debuts hotter than this European bestseller by muckraking Swedish journalist Larsson. At once a strikingly original thriller and a vivisection of Sweden’s dirty not-so-little secrets (as suggested by its original title, Men Who Hate Women), this first of a trilogy introduces a provocatively odd couple: disgraced financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist, freshly sentenced to jail for libeling a shady businessman, and the multipierced and tattooed Lisbeth Salander, a feral but vulnerable superhacker. Hired by octogenarian industrialist Henrik Vanger, who wants to find out what happened to his beloved great-niece before he dies, the duo gradually uncover a festering morass of familial corruption—at the same time, Larsson skillfully bares some of the similar horrors that have left Salander such a marked woman. Larsson died in 2004, shortly after handing in the manuscripts for what will be his legacy. 100,000 first printing. (Sept.)
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Originally published: August 2005
Original title: Män som hatar kvinnor