This book has been at the top of international bestseller charts for quite a while now and is “destined to be regarded amongst the best crime novels ever written”. The most intriguing part for me is that the novels have been published post-humously; Steig Larsson died suddenly in 2004 with three complete novels in the Millennium Trilogy, and a fourth novel half-finished. Originally titled “Men Who Hate Women” in Sweden, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is an intriguing story which begins with Blomkvist, a journalist convicted of libel.

A middle-aged journalist, Mikael Blomkvist, publishes the magazine Millennium in Stockholm. In the opening courtroom drama, Blomkvist loses a libel case brought by accused Swedish industrialist Hans-Erik Wennerström, and this has serious repercussions for the future of Millennium. In disgrace, Blomkvist agrees to be hired by Henrik Vanger, the aged former CEO of the Vanger companies, owned by a wealthy but dysfunctional dynasty. The old man offers not only to help his financially strapped magazine, but also to give him information to prove that Wennerström is corrupt. Officially, he is to spend a year writing the Vanger family history.

Blomkvist’s real mission, however, is to solve a cold case—the disappearance, some forty years previously, of Vanger’s niece Harriet when she was sixteen. Blomkvist encounters “the old Miss Marple closed-room scenario” with all the rich suspects marooned on the family estate on an island.

[From the Wikipedia article]

It took me to about halfway to get really into the book. The first half was spent getting acquainted with Blomkvist and the large Vanger family. We were also afforded glimpses of “The Girl” whose name is Lisbeth Salander. She is such a unique and intriguing character — very well written. What I found so refreshing was reading a book that took place in Sweden. So many crime novels I’ve read have either been placed in America or England; Sweden was unique and refreshing scenery.

As Blomkvist’s investigation gains momentum, and he finally crosses paths with Lisbeth Salander, I found the book nearly impossible to put down. Blomkvist comes off as a resigned character who has put aside his flaws and accepted his shortcomings, which mirrors Lisbeth’s stubborn and strong-willed nature. The second half of the Vanger investigation is fast-paced and intriguing. At the end of the year, Henrik finally provides information about Wennerström that leads Blomkvist on a revenge mission for the last several chapters of the book. Some parts of this section are a little far-fetched but it flows well, so you accept it as a reader.

Steig Larsson touched on several unflattering realities of human nature, and particularly commented on the way Swedish men treat women. I think this was a strong undertone for the novel and the themes are sure to reappear later in the trilogy. I loved this quote from the New York Times Book Review: “In Larsson’s world, sadism, murder and suicide are commonplace — as is lots of casual sex. (Sweden isn’t all bad.)”

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo only scraped the surface of Lisbeth Salander’s character and I am very eager to read the next installment of the Millennium Triology. The ending is left slightly open for the next title, The Girl Who Played with Fire.

The movie for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo opens in Canada on April 16, 2010.