Journalist Mikael Blomqvist is licking his wounds after being found guilty in a libel cause bought by business owner Wennerstrom when he is approached by Henrik Vanger, head of the Vanger Corporation. Vanger's niece Harriet disappeared in the sixties and was never found, leaving Henrik to suspect she has been murdered. In need of a new job, Blomqvist agrees to investigate the case and the complex Vanger family, who hide many secrets. Along the way he is helped by Lisbeth Salander, a private investigator and hacker with a troubled past.
I'm not a big reader of crime or thriller books, but my husband bought me the Millennium trilogy when they became massive a few years ago and finally I decided to pick the first one up off the shelf and give it a try. I wasn't expecting to like it, but I really did and I'm now looking forward to the second in the trilogy.
The original Swedish title of the novel was Men who Hate Women, and this is by far a more accurate description of the book. It's really a furiously angry assault on society and in particular, the amount of rape and sexual assault that occurs in Sweden, but also across the world. Each part of the novel starts with a statistic that makes for grim reading. I am fortunate enough to have never experienced sexual assault myself but it's scarily common; statistics vary but between one in five and one in three women in the UK will experience sexual violence in their life. It's something I feel strongly about and it's a crime that I think isn't taken nearly seriously enough. To see a book like this, that became as popular as it did, tackle an issue like that can only be a good thing;
"'Because it's so easy' he said. 'Women disappear all the time. Nobody misses them. Immigrants. Whores from Russia. Thousands of people pass through Sweden every year."
Whilst the writing in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo isn't the best I've experienced, the story is well plotted with enough twists and turns to keep you guessing. The pacing at the beginning was quite slow, whilst Larsson got across the necessary background information, but the pace soon picked up and I couldn't put the book down by the end. Once Mikael and Lisbeth met, the book became a whole lot better. There is a graphic rape scene in the book but it's not gratuitous as it fits the themes of the novel.
Most readers who have read this book loved Lisbeth and I was expecting to as well, but in the end I just liked her. I felt like Larsson was trying too hard to tell the reader how alternative she was, how outside of the mainstream of society. I liked her and thought she was a great main character, but I didn't love her.
I would recommend A Girl with a Dragon Tattoo, as the plot is good enough to overcome any issues with the writing. I'm looking forward to getting to the remaining two books in the trilogy.
Source: Personal copy
First Published: 2005 (Sweden)
My Edition: Quercus, 2008
Score: 3.5 out of 5