Mikael Blomkovist has just been sentenced to prison for libel. Blomovist, part owner of the financial magazine Millennium, watches his prospects slowly swirl away from him after his disastrous attempt to uncover the shady secrets of industry leader Heins Erick Wennerstrom. Unexpectedly, Blomkovist is contacted by the distinguished Heinrik Vanger, a rich and influential businessman who wants to offer him a deal. The deal is this: If Blomkovist agrees to investigate the mystery of the disappearance of Vanger's niece, who has been missing for 36 years, Vanger will help Blomkovist out of the hole he finds himself in and will sweeten the deal with the real goods on Wenerstrom. Though at first reluctant, Blomkovist agrees to work on the Vanger disappearance, if only to have another shot at the Wenerstrom affair. Lisbeth Salander, an exceptional computer hacker afflicted with Asperger's syndrome, will eventually find her way into Blomkovist's investigation as an unlikely partner, and as the two begin to uncover secret after secret about the disappearance of Harriet, they will discover a series of violent and sadistic unsolved crimes that will threaten both their lives and their investigation.
This book was an unusual choice for me. I normally don't read suspense/thriller novels, but after hearing so much praise lavished on this series of books, I decided to put my prejudices aside and read the book. Unfortunately, I have come to the conclusion that this book was not really for me. First of all, it took an extremely long time for there to be even a hint of action in the story. For the first few hundred pages, the story revolved around court cases, Swedish finances, and elaborate descriptions of the Vanger family's complex history. I kept wading through all this because I knew there was a story to be found here eventually, but the amount of exposition on the business world was overwhelming. Though I tried really hard not to gloss over all these sections, it was very difficult for me to stay focused and hang on until the grist of the story actually started, and though I was eventually rewarded, I found that the actual bones of the story were not as original and stunning as everyone had made them out to be. Though there were some unique elements in the narrative, I found the story and the revelations to be pretty common and not much to write home about. In fact, I had figured out the main mystery of the story pretty early on, and though there were a few surprises, there weren't really any jaw dropping moments or times when I felt that something extraordinary was being done.
I am assuming that the main reason that this book got so much praise is because of the fact that it is more literary than other books in it's genre, and also for the inclusion of Lisbeth Salander. I will admit that Salander was pretty much the only bright spot in the story. It was really interesting to read about her and the life she created for herself despite her affliction. Though she was pretty uncommunicative and antisocial, she seemed to have a heightened awareness of social injustices and went to great lengths to mete out retribution to those perpetrators that she felt were deserving of punishment. Her demeanor was usually chilly, but underneath the gears were churning and there were complex stratagems being devised within her. Her paranoia in dealing with the world at large, especially anyone in a position of authority, was something that made her character really unique in a book like this, and the sections dealing with her history were some of the more robust and complex sections in the book. I found that the sections focusing on Salander were too few and far between, and it was clear from the way the book was arranged that the fundamentals on Salander were included in the story more as exposition for later books in the series than to satisfy the readers curiosity or flesh out the story.
One of the main things that annoyed me about this book was the ridiculous amount of detail that the author included in his descriptions. It was not enough that someone bought a particular brand of computer, he need to go into all the specs, the color, the size, how much it cost, and on and on. This would not have been a problem if it had happened, say, once or twice in the book. Instead it was everywhere, and it really detracted from smooth reading. I got so fed up with all the minuscule details and began to feel that the book would have been much more readable and enjoyable had things been a bit more concise. The details were not only furnished for electronic devices, but for almost every situation, from the multi-paged descriptions of the Vanger family history to the mind numbing repetition of the research done for the investigation into Harriett's disappearance. I thought that it was a shame to waste so much word space on these lengthy trivial details and wished that an editor had been a bit more engaged with the book.
I have read my share of suspense/thrillers, and from what I could tell, there was not much differentiation between those books and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Though I am quite sure that I am in the minority in my reactions to this book, I do think I gave it a fair shake and tried to read it without a host of preconceived notions cluttering my mind. I am not willing to go so far as to say that this was a bad book, because I do think that people who like this genre would really be impressed with it. For me it was not a groundbreaking read that I found breathtaking or thrilling, which is how it had been presented to me. There were a few aspects of the book that I thought were very well done, but overall, I think this story lacked the originality and punch that I had been expecting to find.