Just finished this fascinating book. I had trouble putting it down. It was written by a Swedish journalist, Stieg Larsson, just before he died of a heart attack at the age of 50 in 2004. He had started a series of books and this was the first of three he completed before he died.
The book is translated from the Swedish and something may have been lost in translation in terms of style. Parts of the writing have a “police blotter” flow but this doesn’t detract from the excitement and suspense, it only makes me wonder how even more powerful the story must be in Swedish.
You can tell by the author’s bio that the main character, Mikhail Blomkvist, (try pronouncing that) is modeled after the author. Blomkvist is an idealistic and intense journalist, 42 years of age, divorced, and the editor in chief of the magazine he works for is his best girlfriend. The story opens with Blomkvist getting sued for libel and facing a three month prison term. Before he serves his term, though, he’s approached by a rich industrialist, who knew him as a small child, trusts him, and wants him to solve a mystery, that of the disappearance 36 years ago of his beloved 16 year old grand niece . The action takes place in 2002.
The rich industrialist had requested that a security agency do a background check on Blomkvist just to make sure he’s OK, and this was done by the 24 year old Lisabeth Salander, the girl with the dragon tattoo. Larsson said he modeled Salander after an adult version of Pippi Longstocking. Salander can hack into computers and read by just flipping pages because of her photographic memory, but she is totally repressed socially and resentful of all authority.
Blomkvist and Salander eventually do team up and solve the riddle of the disappearance of the grand niece, but Salander has some dangerous adventures of her own first in which she triumphs. There are some grizzly murders, exciting detective work, and wild adventures, but all ends well. I’m ordering the second book in this series.
UPDATE: Just found a great review of the series by the oh-so-clever Christopher Hitchens. He doesn’t give away the plot details but paints an altogether enticing and amusing picture of Larsson’s magisterial work which he obviously loves.