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The girl with the dragon tattoo
Book
2009
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  New York Times Review

A journalist, a hacker and a 40-year-old cold case. A FEW years ago, Ake Daun, a professor of European ethnology, posted an article on Sweden's official national Web site, Sweden.se, arguing that Swedes are not in fact gloomy or suicide prone. "Sweden is quite far down in the European suicide table, in 15th place," Daun wrote, blaming a 1960 speech by Dwight Eisenhower for leaving outsiders with the impression that Swedes tended toward "sin, nudity, drunkenness and suicide." Maybe so. But "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," by Stieg Larsson, a Swedish journalist who died of a heart attack in 2004, won't help the country's image any. The novel offers a thoroughly ugly view of human nature, especially when it comes to the way Swedish men treat Swedish women. 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," published in Sweden in 2005, became an international best seller. The book opens with an intriguing mystery. Henrik Vanger, an octogenarian industrialist, hires Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist who has just lost a libel case under murky circumstances, to investigate the disappearance of his great-niece, Harriet. Nearly 40 years earlier, Harriet vanished from a small island mostly owned by the Vanger family, and Henrik has never gotten over it. Blomkvist takes on the case, despite serious misgivings, after Henrik promises him 2.4 million kroner (about $372,000 at the current exchange rate) for a year's work. Henrik says he's certain that someone in his family murdered Harriet. "I detest most of the members of my family," he tells Blomkvist. "They are for the most part thieves, misers, bullies and incompetents" - a description that will prove to be, if anything, too kind. The girl of the title isn't Harriet but Lisbeth Salander, a 24-yearold computer hacker with a photographic memory, a violent temper and some serious intimacy issues. After a nasty plot detour involving a lawyer foolish enough to try to take advantage of her, Salander teams with Blomkvist to solve the mystery of Harriet's disappearance. The novel perks up as their investigation gains speed, though readers will need some time to sort through the various cousins and nephews and half-brothers and -sisters who populate the Vanger family. Harriet's case turns out to be connected to a series of murders in the 1950s and '60s. When a cat is killed and its tortured corpse is left outside the cottage where Blomkvist is living, he and Salander realize they may not be working on a cold case after all. BUT if the middle section of "Girl" is a treat, the rest of the novel doesn't quite measure up. The book's original Swedish title was "Men Who Hate Women," a label that just about captures the subtlety of the novel's sexual politics. Except for Blomkvist, nearly every man in the book under age 70 is a violent misogynist. Nor will "Girl" win any awards for characterization. While Blomkvist comes to life as he's investigating the murder, his relationships with his daughter and with Erika Berger, a co-worker who is his occasional lover, seem halfformed and weak. Even after 460 pages, it's not clear whether Blomkvist cares, whether he's troubled by his lack of intimacy or simply resigned to it. Is he stoic or merely Swedish? Either way, he seems more a stock character than a real person. But the real disappointment in "Girl" comes in its final section, after the mystery of Harriet's disappearance has been solved. Without any warning, "Girl" metamorphoses into a boring account of Blomkvist's effort to take down the executive who originally won the libel lawsuit mentioned at the start of the novel. The story of his revenge is boring and implausible, relying heavily on lazy e-mail exchanges between characters. And so "Girl" ends blandly. Only Ake Daun and the Swedish tourist board can be happy about that. Alex Berenson is a reporter for The Times. His most recent novel is "The Ghost War."

  Library Journal Review

Wealthy young Harriet Vanger disappeared 40 years ago, and Uncle Henrik always thought she was murdered. Now he's drafted a hotshot journalist and a tattooed hacker to investigate. An expert on right-wing extremists, Swedish author Larsson died in 2004. This international best seller arrives here with a 100,000-copy first printing. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

  Booklist Review

The first U.S. appearance of another major Swedish crime writer is cause for celebration but also disappointment: Larsson, an acclaimed journalist as well as the author of the award-winning Millenium trilogy, of which this is the first volume, died in 2004. The editor of a magazine called Expo, which was dedicated to fighting right-wing extremism, Larsson brings his journalistic background to bear in his first novel. It is the story of a crusading reporter, Mikail Blomkvist, who has been convicted of libel for his exposé of crooked financier Wennerstrom. Then another Swedish financier, a rival of Wennerstrom, wants to hire Blomkvist to solve the decades-old disappearance of his niece from the family's island compound in the north of Sweden. If Blomkvist works on the project for a year, his employer will deliver the goods on Wennerstrom. Blomkvist takes the job and soon finds himself trying to unlock the grisly multigenerational secrets in a hideously dysfunctional family's many closets. Helping him dig through those closets is the novel's real star, the girl with the dragon tattoo, Lisbeth Salander, a ward of the state who happens to be Sweden's most formidable computer hacker and a fearless foe of women-hating men. Larsson has two great stories (and two star-worthy characters) here, and if he never quite brings them together the conclusion of the Wennerstrom campaign seems almost anticlimactic after the action-filled finale on the island the novel nevertheless offers compelling chunks of investigative journalism, high-tech sleuthing, and psychosexual drama. What a shame that we only have three books in which to watch the charismatic Lisbeth Salander take on the world!--Ott, Bill Copyright 2008 Booklist

  Kirkus Review

First U.S. publication for a deceased Swedish author (1954-2004); this first of his three novels, a bestseller in Europe, is a labored mystery. It's late 2002. Mikael Blomkvist, reputable Stockholm financial journalist, has just lost a libel case brought by a notoriously devious tycoon. He's looking at a short jail term and the ruin of his magazine, which he owns with his best friend and occasional lover, Erika Berger. The case has brought him to the attention of Henrik Vanger, octogenarian, retired industrialist and head of the vast Vanger clan. Henrik has had a report on him prepared by Lisbeth Salander, the eponymous Girl, a freaky private investigator. The 24-year-old Lisbeth is a brilliant sleuth, and no wonder: She's the best computer hacker in Sweden. Henrik hires Mikael to solve an old mystery, the disappearance of his great-niece Harriet, in 1966. Henrik is sure she was murdered; every year the putative killer tauntingly sends him a pressed flower on his birthday (Harriet's custom). He is equally sure one of the Vangers is the murderer. They're a nasty bunch, Nazis and ne'er-do-wells. There are three story lines here: The future of the magazine, Lisbeth's travails (she has a sexually abusive guardian) and, most important, the Harriet mystery. This means an inordinately long setup. Only at the halfway point is there a small tug of excitement as Mikael breaks the case and enlists Lisbeth's help. The horrors are legion: Rape, incest, torture and serial killings continuing into the present. Mikael is confronted by an excruciating journalistic dilemma, resolved far too swiftly as we return to the magazine and the effort to get the evil tycoon, a major miscalculation on Larsson's part. The tycoon's empire has nothing to do with the theme of violence against women which has linked Lisbeth's story to the Vanger case, and the last 50 pages are inevitably anticlimactic. Juicy melodrama obscured by the intricacies of problem-solving. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Summary
Murder mystery, family saga, love story, and financial intrigue combine into one satisfyingly complex and entertainingly atmospheric novel, the first in Stieg Larsson's thrilling Millenium series featuring Lisbeth Salander. <br> <br> Harriet Vanger, a scion of one of Sweden's wealthiest families disappeared over forty years ago. All these years later, her aged uncle continues to seek the truth. He hires Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist recently trapped by a libel conviction, to investigate. He is aided by the pierced and tattooed punk prodigy Lisbeth Salander. Together they tap into a vein of unfathomable iniquity and astonishing corruption.
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