The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo officially marks the halfway point in my book challenge.
Publisher and journalist Mikael Blomkvist loses a very public libel case in court against billionaire industrialist Hans-Erik Wennerström. Feeling deserted and angry, he is approached by Advokat Dirch Frode on behalf of another incredibly wealthy industrialist, Henrik Vanger, who is the retired CEO of the Vanger Corporation. Henrik employed Milton Security to run a thorough background check on Blomkvist, and he was vetted by the best of the best – he was checked out by Lisbeth Salander, an asocial, super-skinny, tough as nails girl, though he is unaware. Meeting Henrik in Hedestad, Henrik tells Blomkvist the tale of his niece that went missing in 1966, and that he is convinced she has been murdered and wants the answers to the mystery seeing as he is truly on the way out. He asks Blomkvist to write the family tale, though his true task is to uncover the truth.
Blomkvist realises that Henrik’s nice, Harriet, has been the old man’s obsession for decades, but takes the ludicrous offer that is put on the table of a few million kronor for services rendered when Henrik dangles the promise of information that will nail Wennerström. Blomkvist takes the job, though his long-time lover and partner at their magazine Erika Berger is not happy about the development. Meanwhile, Salander is getting a raw deal when her legal guardian, Holger Palmgren, ends up hospitalized, and his duties are taken over by Advokat Nils Bjurmen. The man now has control of her finances and her life, so to speak, and is vicious, cruel and nasty, and Salander misjudges the extent of his sadism. She is intent on teaching the man a lesson as well as regaining control of her own life and finances again.
Blomkvist is hard at work on the mystery of Harriet as well as the Vanger chronicle, and later when he makes a breakthrough on the ancient case that nobody expected to happen, he needs a research assistant. Naturally, Frode suggests Salander and the two of them become remarkably close, as close as anything Salander would ever allow. Harriet was researching something when she went missing, and it seems she was onto hunting down a violent psychopath that was brutally raping and murdering women. Soon, though, pieces of the puzzle start to fall into place in rapid succession, and the two race against the clock to solve a mystery that is decades old, though undertones seem to have seeped into the present, and many times after Harriet’s death.
Blomkvist learns many things about Salander, and keeps the fact that she is a brilliant computer hacker to himself. A semblance of trust seems to develop between the two, seeing as he knows more about her than Salander has ever let anyone in on. Will Blomkvist and Salander solve the mysteries surrounding the brutalized women over decades? Will they find out what truly happened to Harriet Vanger? Will Blomkvist get what he needs from Henrik to finally take Wennerström down once and for all, without burning sources or facing another court case?
The book was most certainly captivating, and demanded your attention at any and all possible moments. It was intense, it was interesting and it was, most importantly, exceptionally intelligent. It is very seldom that you find a mystery novel that demands to be read and insists on being sorted into a wholly new category from any other type. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo simply claims that, and so it is granted. When I was first given the books to read, I will admit that the titles put me off, and matters were not helped when I saw that they were translated from Swedish (translated books never seem to work as well as they do in their intended and original language), but this one begged for more. The prose flowed beautifully and it was incredibly well written – it was gritty, it was fast, it was raw. I can only imagine how stunning it must have been in its original tongue. Stieg Larsson is a writer to be respected, and it is heartbreaking that he is not around to present to us more in the series, but I will be eternally grateful that we got some insight as to what he could do. Amazing book, great debut novel, and high up on my “to read list” if you have not experienced these books.