To start off Stieg Larsson is one hell of a writer. To think that his book was rejected by the publishers the first time he tried to get it published is almost imaginable.
It starts as what seems to be a simple story with an easy language and routine plot. Nope, totally not. As you go getting into the book each new character inserted, chapter passed on, action and suspense which take place you then notice that you are totally into it to where you cant seem to close the book even after the wee hours of the night.
Lisbeth Salander is a young girl who has a photographic memory and posseses the advanced ability of internet hacking (this main character, Lisbeth was inspired on a friend of his whom he watched get gang-raped at the early age of 15). Mikael Blomkvist is an older man who works as a journalist for Millennium together with his boss (and lover) Erika Berger. After having taken a few hard blows on life and being charged for slander and false accusations against the Wennerström's group Mikael ends up accepting a strange job offer: discovering what happened to Harriet Vagner (the neice of a rich corporate business man, Henry Vagner) who misteriously disappeared more than thirty years ago. Along the lines of this job, Blomkvist and Salander become workmates who through all means possible (both legally and illegally) go through every unimaginable situation find out the inner scoope in both Harriet Vangner's and Wennerström's secret affairs. To say more would be to ruin the book. You have to read it for yourself to get to know what it feels like to have a book rule your night hours.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (original title in Swedish: Män som hatar kvinnor – literally, men who hate women) is a crime novel by the late Swedish author and journalist Stieg Larsson. It is the first book of the "Millennium series" trilogy, which, when published posthumously in 2005, became a best-seller in Europe and the United States.
When Larsson was 15, he witnessed three of his friends gang-raping an acquaintance of his named Lisbeth, and he did nothing to help her. Wracked with guilt, he begged her forgiveness days later, but she angrily refused. The incident haunted him for years afterward, and in part inspired him to create a character named Lisbeth who was also a rape victim.
Larsson writes within the novel, in Chapter 12, "It's actually a fascinating case. What I believe is known as a locked room mystery, on an island. And nothing in the investigation seems to follow normal logic. Every question remains unanswered, every clue leads to a dead end."
He supplies a family tree explaining the relationships of five generations of the Vanger family.
With the exception of the fictional Hedestad, the novel takes place in real Swedish towns. The Millennium magazine featured in the books has characteristics similar to that of Larsson's magazine, Expo, which also had financial difficulties..
In December 2002, Mikael Blomkvist, publisher of the Swedish political magazine Millennium, loses a libel case involving allegations about billionaire industrialist Hans-Erik Wennerström. He is sentenced to three months in prison, and ordered to pay hefty damages and costs. Soon afterwards, he is invited to meet Henrik Vanger, the retired CEO of the Vanger Corporation, unaware that Vanger has checked into his personal and professional history; the investigation of Blomkvist's circumstances has been carried out by Lisbeth Salander, a brilliant but deeply troubled young woman who works as a surveillance agent with Milton Security.
Vanger promises Blomkvist considerable financial reward and solid evidence against Wennerström, in exchange for writing the Vanger family history. Vanger believes that his great-niece Harriet, who disappeared 36 years earlier, was murdered by a member of the family. He has been trying to find out what happened to her ever since. Harriet disappeared during a family gathering at the Vanger estate on Hedeby Island, when the island was temporarily cut off from the mainland by a traffic accident. Blomkvist moves to the island and begins his research into the history of the Vanger family and Harriet's disappearance.
Lisbeth Salander is under the care of a legal guardian, Holger Palmgren, the only person she trusts. When he suffers a stroke, he is replaced by lawyer Nils Bjurman, who takes advantage of his position to sexually abuse her. After using a hidden camera to record Bjurman raping her, she takes her revenge, torturing him and threatening to ruin him unless he gives her full control of her life and finances. She also brands him with a tattoo identifying him as a rapist to make sure he never harms anyone again.
While searching through the evidence, Blomkvist decides that he needs a research assistant, and Vanger's lawyer mentions Salander. When he sees the report she prepared for Vanger, Blomkvist realises that Salander has hacked into his computer. Salander agrees to assist in the investigation, and eventually becomes his lover. Blomkvist and Salander soon realise that they are on the trail of a serial killer who has been preying on women for decades. When looking through old photographs, Blomkvist realises that they contain a clue to the murderer's identity.
After an unseen assailant tries to kill him, Blomkvist becomes suspicious of Harriet's brother, Martin, and goes to his house. Martin has expected him, however, and takes him prisoner. Martin reveals that he was "initiated" as a teenager into rape and murder by his late father, Gottfried, who had also molested him. Martin brags about murdering dozens of women, but denies killing his sister. Martin tries to kill Blomkvist, but Salander arrives just in time and saves Blomkvist's life. Martin flees in his car, and commits suicide by driving head-on into a truck.
By following a trail that leads first to Cecilia's sister Anita, who now lives in London, Blomkvist and Salander find out that Harriet is still alive and living in Australia. Blomkvist flies over and meets Harriet, who tells him that her father had repeatedly raped her until she killed him in self-defense; Martin saw her do it, and began sexually abusing her until he was sent away to boarding school. She saw him on the day of the accident, and asked Anita to smuggle her out of Sweden in order to get away from him.
Blomkvist persuades Harriet to return to Sweden, where she reunites with her uncle, who makes plans for her to take the position of CEO of the Vanger Corporation. Blomkvist accompanies Salander at the funeral of her mother, who has just died. Salander also tells him that, as a child, she had tried to kill her father by setting him on fire.
Henrik Vanger gives Blomkvist the promised evidence, which turns out to be useless. However, Salander has already hacked Wennerström's computer and has discovered that his crimes go far beyond what Blomkvist documented. Using her evidence, Blomkvist prints an exposé and book which ruins Wennerström and catapults Millennium to national prominence. Meanwhile, Salander steals more than 2.4 billion Euros from Wennerström's secret bank account.
Blomkvist and Salander spend Christmas together in his holiday retreat, and Salander admits to herself that she is in love. She goes to Blomkvist's house with a present for him, but retreats on seeing Blomkvist with his longtime lover and business partner, Erika Berger. Heartbroken, she throws the gift into a skip and leaves the country.
As a postscript, Salander continues to monitor Wennerström, and after six months anonymously informs a lawyer in Miami of his whereabouts. He is found in Marbella, dead, shot three times in the head.
- Mikael Blomkvist – A journalist, publisher and part-owner of the monthly magazine Millennium
- Lisbeth Salander – A freelance surveillance agent and researcher, specializing in investigating people on behalf of Milton Security
- Henrik Vanger – A retired industrialist and former CEO of Vanger Corporation
- Harriet Vanger – Henrik's great-niece
- Martin Vanger – Brother of Harriet and CEO of the Vanger Corporation
- Gottfried Vanger – Martin and Harriet's deceased father
- Isabella Vanger – Gottfried Vanger's wife and Martin and Harriet's mother
- Cecilia Vanger – Daughter of Harald Vanger and one of Henrik's nieces
- Anita Vanger – Cecilia's sister and one of Harriet's second cousins
- Birger Vanger – Cecilia and Anita's brother
- Hans-Erik Wennerström – A corrupt billionaire financier
- Robert Lindberg – Banker and Blomkvist's provider of background to libellous feature
- William Borg – Blomkvist's nemesis
- Monica Abrahamsson – Blomkvist' wife whom he marries in 1986 and divorces in 1991
- Pernilla Abrahamsson – Their daughter who was born in 1986
- Holger Palmgren – Lisbeth Salander's lawyer and legal guardian
- Nils Bjurman – Lisbeth Salander's legal guardian and lawyer after Palmgren
- Erika Berger – Editor-in chief/majority owner of Millennium monthly magazine, and long-standing lover of Blomkvist
- Dirch Frode – Former lawyer for Vanger Corporation, now lawyer with one client: Henrik Vanger
- Dragan Armansky – CEO and COO of Milton Security
- "Plague" – Computer hacker/genius
- Christer Malm – Director, art designer and part-owner of Millennium
- Janne Dahlman – Managing editor of Millennium
- Gustaf Morell – A retired Detective Superintendent
- Anna Nygren – Henrik Vanger's house keeper
- Gunnar Nilsson – Henrik's caretaker
Larsson makes several literary references to the genre's classic forerunners, and comments on contemporary Swedish society. Reviewer Dessaix writes that "His favourite targets are violence against women, the incompetence and cowardice of investigative journalists, the moral bankruptcy of big capital and the virulent strain of Nazism still festering away ... in Swedish society."
Larsson further enters the debate as to how responsible criminals are for their crimes and how much is blamed on upbringing or society. Salander has a strong will and assumes that everyone else does, too. She is portrayed as having suffered every kind of abuse in her young life, including an unjustly ordered commitment to a psychiatric clinic and subsequent instances of sexual assault suffered at the hands of her court-appointed guardian.
Reception and awards
The novel was released to great acclaim in Sweden and later, on its publication in many other European countries. In the original language, it won Sweden's Glass Key Award in 2006 for best crime novel of the year. It also won the 2008 Boeke Prize, and in 2009 the Galaxy British Book Awards for Books Direct Crime Thriller of the Year, and the prestigious Anthony Award  for Best First Novel.
Larsson was posthumously awarded the ITV3 Crime Thriller Award for International Author of the Year in 2008.
The novel received mixed reviews from American critics. In a review for The New York Times upon the book's September 2008 publication in the United States, Alex Berensonwrote, "The novel offers a thoroughly ugly view of human nature"; while it "opens with an intriguing mystery" and 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." The Los Angeles Times said "the book takes off, in the fourth chapter: From there, it becomes classic parlor crime fiction with many modern twists....The writing is not beautiful, clipped at times (though that could be the translation by Reg Keeland) and with a few too many falsely dramatic endings to sections or chapters. But it is a compelling, well-woven tale that succeeds in transporting the reader to rural Sweden for a good crime story." Several months later, Matt Selman said the book "rings false with piles of easy super-victories and far-fetched one-in-a-million clue-findings."
As of June 3, 2011, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo had sold over 3.4 million copies in hardcover or ebook formats, and 15 million copies altogether, in the United States.
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