September 2008

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

By Stieg Larsson
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Stieg Larsson’s writing excels at every turn in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, the first book in his Millennium Trilogy: his distinctive characters are richly drawn, his plot is masterfully crafted and his prose effortlessly carries the reader along for the ride.

As this outstanding Swedish novel opens, Mikael Blomkvist, a financial journalist and publisher of the liberal magazine Millennium, is licking his wounds after being convicted of libel. He wants nothing more than to see the truth come out about corrupt financier Hans-Erik Wennerström—and to see his own journalistic integrity restored. So when Blomkvist is promised crippling information about Wennerström by elderly businessman Henrik Vanger, former CEO of the Vanger Corporation, Blomkvist is intrigued. There are strings attached, of course: Vanger wants Blomkvist to investigate the disappearance of his beloved niece, Harriet, who vanished from remote Hedeby Island in 1966 without a trace. As he begins his investigation, Blomkvist struggles to adapt to the Nordic cold (on his second day he makes a break for the local store to buy lined gloves and long underwear), while also getting used to life on a small island, where the great majority of residents share the Vanger name.

Intertwined with Blomkvist’s narrative is that of Lisbeth Salander, a tattooed, waif-thin, 20-something hacker known for her extreme antisocial behavior and capacity for violence. Eventually, the enigmatic Salander is also drawn into the mystery of Harriet’s disappearance, joining Blomkvist on the island and putting her professional skills as a freelance private investigator to use. Here the tightly written plot takes off, leading this unusual pair on a fast-paced, all-consuming journey deep into Harriet’s story, and into the secrets of the Vanger family.

This remarkable debut lands on American shelves after establishing itself as a publishing phenomenon in Europe, selling millions of copies across the continent since its 2005 Swedish publication. Sadly, the excitement surrounding this fresh new voice in literature is bittersweet—Larsson died suddenly at age 50 before the novel was published. At least fans can look forward to two more intelligent thrillers from this talented author who was taken too soon.

Kim Schmidt writes from Champaign, Illinois.



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