Genre: Suspense, Mystery, Sweden
Reading Challenges: 37 for 100+ in 2009
It was almost love at first sight with this book. The title alone was enough to pique my interest. I wasn't sure who the girl with the dragon tattoo might be, but I had a feeling she would be just the kind of feisty and slightly off kilter heroine that I prefer. After finishing this book, I am pleased to say that my instincts were correct, and Lisbeth Salander (the tattooed girl herself) was even more amazing than I expected.
This is an interesting read. I had seen it mentioned all over the blog sphere, usually in a very positive way. So, I was a little surprised that this book didn't really grab me from the first page. Perhaps it is because I am totally unfamiliar with the geography of Sweden, and the names were a bit different sounding, but it took me a few pages to get into this book. However, once I was able to immerse myself in the story (thirty pages in or so), I was hooked.
The story begins with Mikael Blomkvist, a financial journalist who has just been convicted of libel and sentenced to a brief prison term, at a crossroads in his life. Blomkvist seems slightly dazed by the whirlwind of events that have resulted in a guilty verdict and the apparent derailment of his career as a respected journalist. It is at this time that he is approached by Henrik Vanger, the former head of the Vanger corporation, and an old man who hopes to solve the mystery that has haunted him for almost forty years, and in some ways, ruined his life. The mystery in question involves the disappearance of Henrik's great niece, and Henrik suspects that someone in his family was involved. Blomkvist finds himself working, albeit unwillingly at first, to solve the mystery. Eventually, he seeks the help of Lizbeth Salander, a mysterious hacker, who might just have the skills to not only help him solve an ever growing mystery, but also to keep them both alive.
This is a page turner! Literally, I just reached a point in this book where I couldn't put it down. Even in the midst of packing up my house I found myself trying to sneak in some reading time. I was surprised however by several events in the book which were so graphic and horrendous that I almost stopped reading. I don't want to post any spoilers, so I won't go into more detail, other than to say that this book has a lot of violence against women. The violence is not presented in a sensationalist manner, but the details are very graphic and disturbing. After reading this book, I learned that the original title in Swedish is something like, "The Man Who Hates Women." Honestly, that says it all. It isn't all doom and gloom however. The women characters are not portrayed as victims, even if they are victimized, but as strong individuals who work to find their own solutions to the bad situations in which they find themselves.
I really enjoyed this book. I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series, The Girl Who Played with Fire. It wasn't until I started reading this book that I learned that Larsson had passed away before it was published. Initially, I wondered if the book was perhaps overrated because of the tragic fate of its author. but after finishing the novel I have come to the conclusion that the praise it has received is all richly deserved.