Henrik Vanger, head of the dynastic Vanger Corporation, is tormented by the loss of a child decades earlier and convinced that a member of his family has committed murder.
Mikael Blomkvist delves deep into the Vangers’ past to uncover the truth behind the unsolved mystery. But someone else wants the past to remain a secret and will go to any lengths to keep it that way.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Lisbeth Salander, the enigmatic, delinquent and dangerous security specialist, assists in the investigation. A genius computer hacker, she tolerates no restrictions placed upon her by individuals, society or the law.
Mikael Blomkvist’s career as a financial journalist seems to be over when he’s found guilty of libelling the industrialist Hans-Erik Wennerstrom and is sentenced to jail and a heavy fine. While his lawyer negotiates when his jail sentence will begin, Henrik Vanger, the retired head of a large industrial family asks him to carry out an investigation. 40 years ago his teenage niece, Harriett, disappeared. No trace was ever found but every year since then he’s received a pressed flower from someone who he believes knows what happened.
Lisbeth Salander was hired to investigate Blomkvist. A troubled woman in the care of the state, she’s incredibly intelligent, intuitive and a gifted hacker who becomes intrigued with Blomkvist’s legal predicament. They join forces to investigate Harriet’s disappearance and in doing so fall into a dark world of neo-Nazism, murder and sadism that puts them both in danger.
Stieg Larsson (translated by Reg Keeland) weaves a complicated plot into a page-turning thriller. For much of the book Lisbeth and Blomkvist are separate, with Salander facing problems of her own caused by a new state appointed guardian who abuses his control over her life in the worst way possible. Blomkvist himself has two storylines – one involving what happened with the Wennerstrom case, the other the Harriet Vanger disappearance. For me, the balance between the storylines didn’t quite work and at times worked to slow each other down too much, although they do all come together in the end in a satisfying way.
It’s not well written – dialogue is clunky at times and Larsson relies heavily on exposition (each building gets detailed down to the square footage). Salander is an interesting character although some of her ‘punkier’ characteristics are a little cliché. Blomkvist reads as an author self-insert and is sexually desired by all the women he meets in a way that defies credibility.
Where the book works is in its dissection of the wrongs of the Swedish guardianship system and the way it’s open to abuse. It also reads as a blistering attack on Sweden’s right-wing history and the way in which journalists fail to question big companies and their actions.
It’s not a great advert for Swedish men – they’re mostly rapists and abusers – but for all its faults, the complex plot keeps you turning the pages and for that reason alone it’s worth checking out to see what the fuss is about.
The complexity of the plot kept me turning the pages but this is not a well-written book, with clunky dialogue and characterisation that descends into cliché at times. However, it is worth checking out to see what the fuss is about.
Cross-posted to books and bookworming.