Monday, June 4, 2012
Published in the U.S. September 2008 by Knopf Doubleday Publishing
Source: my copy courtesy of my parents
Carl Mikeal Blomkvist, a journalist facing prison time after an article he wrote for his magazine gets him convicted of libeling a wealthy businessman, has just been offered a most unusual job. Under the guise of writing a novel about his family, Henrick Vanger has hired Blomkvist to find the killer of his beloved niece. There are a few problems with the assignment - it means Blomkvist has to go live on the Swedish island most of the older members of the Vanger clan call home, no body was ever found, the girl went missing 30 years ago, and most of the family doesn't want the old man's obsession humored.
Lisbeth Salander is a 24-year-old computer hacker/private investigator who is hired by Vanger's lawyer to investigate Blomvkist before he is hired and who soon finds herself drawn into the case as well as into Blomvkist's life.
Blomkvist certainly has some moral-compass issues, sleeping his way through the book. Surprisingly, this didn't really seem to bother me as much as it probably should have. On the other hand, here is a guy who is greatly concerned with uncovering corruption and he does genuinely seem to have a soft spot for the women he is involved with.
Lizbeth Salander is one of the most profoundly damaged characters I've found in a book. Truly horrible things have happened to her all of her life so she may be forgiven for being a person who is utterly incapable of connecting with others and who has a major anger control problem.
Strangely, both of these characters managed to make me truly care about them. This despite, or maybe because, I'd already seen the Swedish adaptations of the books and knew more about these characters than someone who has just picked up the books knows as they are reading.
There were some very strange things about the writing of this book that made me think "whaaaa." Very detailed descriptions of particular computer models, an actual website address. These were things that had no purpose in the book and, frankly, will date the book in no time. There are so many characters in the book that someone (Larsson? his editor? the publisher?) thought a family tree at the front of the book was needed. Even then I had to make my own so that I could make notes about the characters and be able to track who was who without having to flip back and forth. Sure, the more characters, the greater the mystery. But did we really need to know about the Vanger family four or five generations back? A less compelling story line might not have survived being burdened with all of this. Fortunately for Larrson, he was able to craft a compelling plot with enough mystery to keep the reader guessing.
Larsson definitely created a unique set of characters to set up this series and I definitely got wrapped up in the story but I'm not sure that I "got" what made this book an international sensation over other books about serial killers. That being said, I'm eager to move onto the next book in the series.