The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a masterwork of fine craftsmanship. When
I reached the final page I was disappointed that there was no more to read. I did not want the story to end. The characters are too intriguing for this to be the end. Apparently this was the first novel in a trilogy by the brilliant writer, Stieg Larsson, who
unfortunately died in 2004: the book contains a tribute to him and his career. I cannot wait to read the sequels scheduled for release in the USA in 2009.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is an international best seller and is set in Sweden. It takes a little effort to get accustomed to all the Swedish names and places but then the story moves with lightening speed. There are two key plots happening simultaneously. In one, a Swedish financial investigative journalist publishes a libelous attack about a powerful industrialist and is sentenced to jail, fined a ruinous sum, and has his career torn to shreds. Another industrialist, Vanger, hires the journalist to investigate the 36 year old disappearance of his then 14
year old grand niece. There has been no trace of her in all these years and she is assumed dead. Yet, every year on his birthday, he receives a mysterious gift of a pressed flower, mimicking a gift his missing grandniece used to give him when she lived there. Vanger, an old man, is tormented by the flower gifts, and wants one more chance to find out what happened to her and who killed her. What the journalist uncovers about the Vanger family’s hitherto unknown secrets and connections to the Nazis, will have you hanging on the edge of your seat.
The book is titled after yet another character, Lisabeth Salander, a societal outcast and social ward of the State, uncivilized without any desire to obey societal norms, and replete with piercings, tattoos, and a goth/biker appearance. In short, at first glance a totally undesirable and unsympathetic person. She is a researcher with a corporate security firm and ends up working with the journalist. In truth, she is a survivor of abuse in all forms with low self esteem, and an inability to trust. She is a genius with Asberger’s Syndrome, a form of autism, who sees patterns in things ordinary mortals miss and uses incredible computer hacking skills to accomplish her goals. She is fascinating: ruthless and tough to a fault, yet internally vulnerable, struggling to comprehend her own feelings. She has an appeal that draws you to her, rooting for her, and wanting to understand her. Lisabeth is unforgettable, unlike most characters that populate mystery thrillers. There is such depth here.
The book is a thriller on many levels: The story about the Vanger family itself, the journalist’s crusade to redeem his reputation, Lisabeth’s vendettas and development, and of course, the truth about what actually happened to the missing Vanger heiress. This is a superb novel and impossible to put down. Utterly stunning. Probably the best book in 2009.