This initial installment starts off impressively, in the form of a brief, though insightful prologue: nearly 40 years ago, 16-year-old Harriet Vangar, descendant of one of Sweden’s wealthiest families, suddenly disappears. In the years since then, her uncle, Henriek Vangar, has been the recipient of rare, exotic flowers, trapped within nondescript paintings, mysteriously sent from an anonymous party.
The disappearance haunts every aspect of Henriek’s life. His dying wish is to have some answers, at long last. In order to achieve this, he hires financial journalist, Mikeal Blomkvist, to investigate.
In due time, Lisbeth Salander wishes to join, and Henriek seems more than happy to oblige. This speaks volumes about his degree of desperation.
Speaking personally, Salander (and Blomkvist, to an extent) is the heart and soul of these tales. Her unique character has a way of taking the mundane, and making it her own. She is quickly becoming one of my favorite fictional characters of all time, I simply adore her.
Largely due to my infatuation with her, not to mention Larsson’s expert character development– he clearly knows them inside and out, exposing some of their deepest secrets, almost nonchalantly– the horrific scene with Bjurman sickened me to no end. It reverberated the very core of my being. I literally had to set the book down for several days. I just… could not proceed.
However bleak that may sound, the author incorporates a significant shifting of power which pleased me very much. It also began to establish Salander as an incredibly versatile and strong heroine.
Together, the investigative duo work diligently to piece the details into a cohesive whole, all the while forming what I hope will be a lasting friendship.
Then, roughly halfway through the novel, everything starts to change.. not for the better, either, IMO. The case no longer revolves around Harriet’s disappearance. It’s something much more sinister.
I won’t bore (nor spoil) you with the grisly details because, quite frankly, there isn’t an ounce of believability to them. More to the point, it seemed contrived and sort of the trendy thing to do with the present day mystery/thriller. And while I found this to be incredibly misleading, I’m uncertain if Larsson is completely at fault, or if the way in which it was marketed played a part, as well.
Throughout all this, the basic essence of our protagonist’s never does change. For that alone, I must commend the author on a job well done.
With the case resolved (in a very idyllic, almost anti-climatic manner, I might add,) Salander and Blomkvist revert to a previous investigation, one involving the financial guro, Hans Wennerstrom. This, too, comes to an inevitable end.
And with it, Larsson piqued my interest once more. It was like he picked my weary soul up from the halfway point to redeem his work. In this, he’s granted some much needed redemption.
The author excels at the journalist, financial elements. (I suspect this stems from his experience as a journalist and editor-in-chief status at Expo, an antidemocratic, right-wing extremist magazine.) Said aspects fascinated me, actually. If it weren’t for the remaining 60 or so pages, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo would have received less than 3 stars.
In closing, I thoroughly enjoyed the further development of Blomkvist and Salander’s characters. There’s even a nice twist at the end to wet the readers appetite.
“What she had realised was that love was that moment when your heart was about to burst.”
I simply had to know what happens next!