The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (original title in Swedish: Män som hatar kvinnor; in English: Men Who Hate Women) is a crime novel by the late Swedish author and journalist Stieg Larsson (1954–2004), which was published posthumously in 2005 to become an international best-seller. It is the first book of the Millennium series.
A sensation across Europe—millions of copies sold
A spellbinding amalgam of murder mystery, family saga, love story, and financial intrigue.
It’s about the disappearance forty years ago of Harriet Vanger, a young scion of one of the wealthiest families in Sweden . . . and about her octogenarian uncle, determined to know the truth about what he believes was her murder.
It’s about Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist recently at the wrong end of a libel case, hired to get to the bottom of Harriet’s disappearance . . . and about Lisbeth Salander, a twenty-four-year-old pierced and tattooed genius hacker possessed of the hard-earned wisdom of someone twice her age—and a terrifying capacity for ruthlessness to go with it—who assists Blomkvist with the investigation. This unlikely team discovers a vein of nearly unfathomable iniquity running through the Vanger family, astonishing corruption in the highest echelons of Swedish industrialism—and an unexpected connection between themselves.
It’s a contagiously exciting, stunningly intelligent novel about society at its most hidden, and about the intimate lives of a brilliantly realized cast of characters, all of them forced to face the darker aspects of their world and of their own lives.
Review by The Guardian
There’s been a symbiotic relationship between Scandinavian and British crime fiction for almost 50 years. Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo’s 1960s/70s crime series featuring the introspective, troubled Inspector Martin Beck inspired a generation of British crime-writers who then gave it right back. Beck partly begat John Harvey’s Resnick, who helped beget Mankell’s Wallender. Swedish author and journalist Stieg Larsson uses the tropes of both Scandinavian and British crime fiction but he is a one-off or, rather, was a one-off – tragically, he died of a heart attack, aged 50, in 2004.
Tattoo is the first of his Millennium Trilogy to be published in the UK. It is a violent thriller that focuses on a complex financial fraud and a powerful family’s sinister secret. It starts slowly, with details of how a Swedish company is ripping off government funding to set up a fake business in Russia. The novel picks up speed when it gets into the complexities of the wealthy Vanger family’s past. Forty years earlier, Harriet Vanger disappeared off the family’s private island. Nobody saw her leave, there was no sign of her disappearance and no corpse. Her uncle, however, is convinced that a family member murdered her.
A journalist, Blomqvist, in disgrace after losing a libel case arising from his reporting of the financial scandal, takes on the investigation of the woman’s disappearance. Almost immediately, he sees a link with a number of other murders taking place around the same time. The family only pretends to help and Blomqvist doesn’t know where to go next.
Then he hooks up with the titular tattooed girl – a very angry punk hacker. The journalist and the hacker are ingenious, believable creations, in conflict with themselves and each other. They form an incongruous but credible bond as everyone they meet is against them. In the end, the novel becomes, among many other things, something of a tender love story.
Larsson’s trilogy was published in Scandinavia and continental Europe to great acclaim between 2005 and 2007, after his death. Tattoo (Original title: Men Who Hate Women) won the prestigious Glass Key for the best Nordic crime novel of 2005. The Girl Who Played With Fire (2006) won a Swedish Academy for Detective Novels award. The third, Castles in the Sky, came out early last year.
Larsson, a leading expert on right-wing extremists and neo-Nazi organisations, was editor of Expo, the magazine for a project he had set up to combat racism. He began writing the trilogy after work each evening in 2001. He claimed he enjoyed it so much that he was partway through the third before he even considered sending anything to a publisher.
This is a striking novel, full of passion, an evocative sense of place and subtle insights into venal, corrupt minds. It’s sad that a potentially great crime-writing career was ended almost before it began, but at least UK readers can enjoy this and look forward to the succeeding two novels in the trilogy.
Amazon Best of the Month, September 2008: Once you start The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, there’s no turning back. This debut thriller–the first in a trilogy from the late Stieg Larsson–is a serious page-turner rivaling the best of Charlie Huston and Michael Connelly. Mikael Blomkvist, a once-respected financial journalist, watches his professional life rapidly crumble around him. Prospects appear bleak until an unexpected (and unsettling) offer to resurrect his name is extended by an old-school titan of Swedish industry. The catch–and there’s always a catch–is that Blomkvist must first spend a year researching a mysterious disappearance that has remained unsolved for nearly four decades. With few other options, he accepts and enlists the help of investigator Lisbeth Salander, a misunderstood genius with a cache of authority issues. Little is as it seems in Larsson’s novel, but there is at least one constant: you really don’t want to mess with the girl with the dragon tattoo. –Dave Callanan
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Cases rarely come much colder than the decades-old disappearance of teen heiress Harriet Vanger from her family’s remote island retreat north of Stockholm, nor do fiction debuts hotter than this European bestseller by muckraking Swedish journalist Larsson. At once a strikingly original thriller and a vivisection of Sweden’s dirty not-so-little secrets (as suggested by its original title, Men Who Hate Women), this first of a trilogy introduces a provocatively odd couple: disgraced financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist, freshly sentenced to jail for libeling a shady businessman, and the multipierced and tattooed Lisbeth Salander, a feral but vulnerable superhacker. Hired by octogenarian industrialist Henrik Vanger, who wants to find out what happened to his beloved great-niece before he dies, the duo gradually uncover a festering morass of familial corruption—at the same time, Larsson skillfully bares some of the similar horrors that have left Salander such a marked woman. Larsson died in 2004, shortly after handing in the manuscripts for what will be his legacy. 100,000 first printing. (Sept.)
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