Stieg Larsson’s murder mystery follows the life of Mikael Blomkvist, an investigative journalist in Stockholm who has been unjustly convicted of libelling a financial giant. Faced with jail time and fairly broke, he accepts a business proposal from Vanger, an octogenarian millionaire who lives in a remote village. Blomkvist is to move to the village and try to solve the mystery of the disappearance of the millionaire’s niece thirty years earlier. Blomkvist’s story eventually coalesces with that of Lisbeth Salander, a twenty-four-year-old hacker and social misfit who has a tattoo of a dragon on her shoulder.
While thrillers aren't usually my thing when it comes to books, this was a truly intriguing plot and engaging read, not least because the characters were utterly believable, interesting and compelling. Salander is a self-confessed freak, with some sort of social dissociative disorder, but extraordinarily gifted when it comes to researching, digging up 'dirt' from unknown, often illegal sources, and wielding a golf club, which happens to come in very handy. Blomkvist, on the other hand, is completely chilled out, apparently irresistable to women, yet a very capable journalist, who goes a long way towards solving the complicated case single-handedly. However, when he realises that the workload is too great for him alone, and he comes into contact with Salander, what ensues in the dynamic between the two is extremely interesting, given what we know of both characters to date. Salander, having been the victim of a horrendous rape, not long before, finds she can actually trust Blomkvist, who treats her as a person as opposed to an object, and Blomkvist appears strangely passive in his interactions with her, yielding to her full-on advances.
One or two things didn't ring quite true in my reading of the book, and one concerned the rape of Salander, from which she seemed to bounce back rather quickly. I know she avenged her perpetrator, but it didn't seem to affect her in the traumatic way that one would expect of such a crime.
Another aspect was Blomkvist's own relationships with women. While he comes across as charming and very likeable, he can't seem to commit to any one woman, and his long-standing arrangement with Erika Berger is very dubious.
Those issues aside, it was a fantastic read, and really evoked the beauty of the Scandinvavian coutryside through all the seasons. The descriptions of the locations became so familiar that I oould almost feel I was there, wrapped up and trudging through the snowy treks of Hedestad, and stopping for a coffee and sandwich in Suzanne's cafe on the way back.
While the ending was satisfying, it's clear that Larsson was leaving it open for a follow-up novel, and I'm certainly looking forward in time to completing the trilogy.