I’ve heard so many raves about this book and its two sequels that I had to pick it up and give it a try. It’s a mystery, or perhaps the better term would be “crime novel,” set in modern-day Sweden (and translated from the original Swedish). Mikael Blomqvist, a discredited journalist who has spent his career bringing down the powerful, is hired to investigate a long-buried mystery — the disappearance of a young woman 40 years earlier. When Blomqvist meets up with Lisbeth Salander, a wildly dysfunctional young woman whose secret skills include hacking into other people’s computers, they work together to uncover an incredibly sordid crime in the world of Swedish high finance.
I found this book took a long time for me to get into, because there were so many characters intertwined in such a complex plot, and not only did the plot have to do with the business world which normally confuses and bores me, but all the characters had Swedish names (as well they should) so I had a hard time remembering who was who. Neither of those are flaws in the book; they’re simply a matter of my reading preferences and shortcomings.
The most common praise I hear for this book is that Larsson (who died suddenly after submitting the manuscripts for these three books) has created a truly original and compelling character in his young hacker, Lisbeth Salander. I definitely found this to be the case. In fact Larsson, who being Swedish was raised on the great Swedish children’s classics, is on record as having said that he imagined Salander as a kind of grown-up Pippi Longstocking. This is not to suggest, in any way, shape, or form, that Salander’s character, or the book, has any of the light-hearted fun of Astrid Lindgren’s children’s classics — far from it. Rather, I think Larsson may have been suggesting that a “real-life” Pippi Longstocking, while she would have some incredible skills and abilities, would have grown up to fit very poorly indeed into the “normal” adult world.
Once I finally got into it, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was an interesting read. I’m not sure I can actually say I “enjoyed” it. When it comes to mysteries, they range widely from the cozy and serene, where actual murder and mayhem are distant and theoretical, to the graphic and all-too-realistic. This book is in the latter category, which is why I said that “crime fiction” might be a better description than “mystery.” I’m not sure I’m going to read the others in the series, but it’s not because this wasn’t a well-written and interesting book: I’m just not sure it was the best fit for me as a reader.