Forty years ago, Harriet Vanger disappeared from a family gathering on the island owned and inhabited by the powerful Vanger clan. Her body was never found, yet her uncle is convinced it was murder – and that the killer is a member of his own tightly knit but dysfunctional family. He employs disgraced financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist and the tattooed, truculent computer hacker Lisbeth Salander to investigate. When the pair link Harriet’s disappearance to a number of grotesque murders from forty years ago, they begin to unravel a dark and appalling family history. But the Vangers are a secretive clan, and Blomkvist and Salander are about to find out just how far they are prepared to go to protect themselves.
Even though the first book, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, had the cleanest, most precise storyline, Larsson does an admirable job interweaving several mysteries and story lines into novels in all three books.
Blomkvist goes under the cover story of ghost writing the Vanger family chronicle. He’s aided by the title character Lisbeth Salander, the girl with the dragon tattoo.
“Everyone has secrets. It’s just a matter of finding out what they are.”
Salander is a social ward of the state, she’s antisocial, has no urge what so ever to submit willingly to authority and is covered with an assortment of tattoos along with piercings to complete the gothic ensemble. She also happens to be a genius hacker who prefers to dish out her own brand of justice and revenge upon those vile and ruthless users and abusers that crawl on the face of the earth, whom she despises with a passion to be reckoned with.
Together they delve into the depths of the Vanger family’s past until they find themselves very close to cracking this mystery open when someone begins to threaten them to get lost and keep away. Despite the looming danger, they proceed to finally discover the events that lead to Harriet Vanger’s disappearance and possibly her death.
When I’d first picked up The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo I didn’t know what really to expect, I mean I’ve read the blurb but the genre of crime fiction is relatively new to me. In the beginning, where it was elaborated how Blomkvist had landed himself in this spot was confusing to me mainly because of all of this financial mumbo-jumbo, so most likely readers savvy in this field are more comfortable here but I believe I got the gist of the situation after reading certain parts till my head hurt and finally putting in down for a short while before resuming.
The characters, on the most part, are believable and were three dimensional. Now I’ll zoom in a bit on Lisbeth Salander. Lisbeth is a truly intriguing personality; she’s distant and wants little to do with anyone else unless she really has to. Her general behaviour and intense dislike to abusers leads me to believe that she had suffered at the hands of one herself in her past. She won’t take nonsense lying down and her survivor’s spirit is one of the reasons why I admire her. There is something … something I can almost place my finger upon what that makes me so eager to learn more about her.
“It did no good to cry, she had learned that early on. She had also learned that every time she tried to make someone aware of something in her life, the situation just got worse. Consequently it was up to her to solve her problems by herself, using whatever methods she deemed necessary.”
We learn of certain family members’ involvement with the Nazis during the Second WW and a little about Henrik Vanger’s stay in war time Germany. I thought this particularly interesting because I’m partial to even fictional accounts during that time in history.
I found this book surprisingly violent, with certain parts that had thrown me a little off balance but I had the feeling I’d better get used to it. I should have taken a hint to the snippets of statistics of abuse of women in Sweden, because it’s one of the themes later identified.
“I’ve had many enemies over the years. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s never engage in a fight you’re sure to lose. On the other hand, never let anyone who has insulted you get away with it. Bide your time and strike back when you’re in a position of strength—even if you no longer need to strike back.”
The fact that I had to put down and pick it up again numerous times before I got around page 270 to really get hooked, is the reason why I gave this book 4 stars. I know that lots of books start off by stretching and yawning before they finally pick up substantial speed but for me 200 and something pages is too much.
With that being said, overall The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo is a book truly worth reading and frankly if someone had told me it happened in reality I would stare in utter fascination and, at the same time, horror but nevertheless I would eventually believe him because the plot is believable. Who knows what dark secrets those huge empires quietly sweep under the carpet? How many women had suffered such unimaginably gruesome torture, with their screams that go unheard? This just makes me wonder.
Stieg Larsson draws you in from the start with his tantalising description of the main protagonists you’re about to meet. Like all good crime novels it starts unremarkably, as we meet two detectives, known to each other, talking about the sudden delivery of a mysterious white flower. Then the story gradually unfolds, and Larsson fills out a wider canvas of the many intrigues that the reader must follow to see the case finally resolved in that inimitable Larson fashion. A classic thriller, with excellent suspense and pacing from the outset.