Title: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Swedish title: Men Who Hate Women
Series: Millennium Trilogy
Author: Stieg Larsson
Release date: June 23, 2009
Genre: Fiction, thriller/suspense
Source: Personal collection
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Mikael Blomkvist is a journalist and the publisher of Millennium magazine in Stockholm, Sweden. A year ago, he had everything going for him; he loved his job, and his oddly romantic relationship with his business partner and best friend Erika Berger had never been better.
But now, his life is crumbling. He penned an exposé of the corrupt business practices of industrialist Hans-Erik Wennerström, but without any solid proof to back up the claims of Blomkvist’s anonymous source, Wennerström filed and won a libel suit against the journalist.
A down and out Blomkvist decides he needs a drastic change in his life, so he accepts an offer from Henrik Vanger, the former CEO of the huge Vanger Enterprises, to spend a year writing the Vanger family history on the tiny island of Hedeby. But, Vanger tells him, the family history is just a cover for the digging Mikael will have to do for his real assignment: solving the 40-year-old mystery of the disappearance of Vanger’s beloved niece Harriet.
But Blomkvist will need help with his research, so he hires enigmatic Lisbeth Salander as his assistant.
Lisbeth has had a tough life, to put it mildly. After years of mistreatment at the hands of educators, judges and guardians, Salander has learned to take care of herself. Quite well, in fact. And it’s a good thing; as Blomkvist and Salander dig deeper into the Vangers’ story, Blomkvist will need all the help he can get!
In their search for Harriet, Salander and Blomkvist uncover more than a few skeletons in the Vanger family closet, and Salander saves him more than once.
I almost hated this book.
I have a rule: If I’m not sold on a book in the first 100 pages, I allow myself to abandon it. Lucky for you, this book pulled me in on page 92.
Several people had recommended it to me when they found out that I like books, but that I shied away from it from time and again. It looked too mass-market, too thriller, for me. But when a good friend with tastes similar to mine also recommended it to me, I decided to give it a shot. And, to my surprise, I couldn’t put it down (after the 92nd page, that is).
Lisbeth is the most compelling female character I have read in a long time. Perhaps ever. She’s enigmatic, she’s ridiculously tough, she show signs of Asperger’s, and honestly, she’s not terribly likeable most of the time. But all of that combines to make her a really interesting character. I can’t think of another story that has a female protagonist like Lisbeth, and she is really what powers the plot.
Though Mikael is kind of interesting, he also seems very unrealistic. From what I’ve read, Stieg Larsson is a lot like his main character, minus the provocative exposés, dashing good looks and inexplicable luck with women. I mean, he’s having a 20-year long public affair with a married woman? Yeah, OK. Sometimes reading from Mikael’s point of view felt like reading Larsson’s diary about the man he wished he could be. (Too harsh?)
The book occasionally suffers from a very convoluted plot. There are two stories in one—the “Wennerström affair” and the Vanger family mystery—and the second is certainly more interesting than the first. But the second is so enthralling, and twists in such amazing ways, that enduring the first is worth it.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is longer than I expected, but once I got into it the pages basically turned themselves. It was a very fast and easy read, and I couldn’t wait for the next installment. And normally trilogies with more than 600 pages in each book make me angry! If that’s not a rousing recommendation, I don’t know what is.