Review | Tuesday 29 January 2008
I know it's only February, but this book is a SENSATION!!!, and without a doubt likely to be one of the top thrillers of this - or any other - year! It's the first in what is being referred to as the 'Millenium Trilogy', by Swedish journalist Larsson, who apparently tragically died of a heart attack some months after completing the third book in 2004. And a little extra back-story: this translation is the first publication of the new Maclehose Press, with ex-Harvill publisher Christopher Maclehose at the helm ( who in his career at Harvill had an uncanny knack for picking some phenomenal Scandinavian writers - like Peter Hoeg and Henning Mankell).
But enough of preliminaries - what can I say about this unputdownable book?! Maybe firstly to say that this book gets you in instantly, with a prologue which relates how the 82-year-old Henrik Vanger has received in his mail on the same day for over 40 years a dried flower, always of the most unusual and rare nature. As every year, he informs a retired police detective, for whom it's his last unsolved and most frustrating case.
Next page: the family tree of the Vanger dynasty, whose family company is one of Sweden's most significant industrial entities.
Then enter Mikael Blomkvist, financial journalist and publisher of Millenium, a new current affairs magazine, who has just been convicted of libel as a result of an expose gone wrong of Wennerstrom, another Swedish business tycoon.
These two stories are then twined together as a highly unconventional private investigator, the damaged and angry young computer whizz Lisbeth Salander, is hired to check Blomqvist's character - because Henrik sees him as maybe his only chance to get to the bottom of the mystery that the flowers seem to allude to - the disappearance of his 16-year-old niece Harriett at the clan's annual family gathering in 1966. Blomkvist accepts (with the bait of some dirt on Wennerstrom), and moves to a cottage on the family island to start work - putatively on a family history, but really to investigate anew the crime. As the case gets more complicated, he teams up with Salander to help him with the research - that is turning in to a long and bloody trail of macabre killings that have occurred for decades around Sweden.
Through this rough plot summary I think I want to say: this is CLASSIC crime fiction - from the tip of a hat to Agatha Christie in the scenario of Harriet's disappearance from Henderby, the family island (which on the day in question couldn't be left), the wonderfully atmospheric location in Sweden's far North, the endearing character of Blomqvist, the marvelous creation that is Salander, and a wonderfully executed playing out of the mystery which enthrals to the very end. And it's not without its serious side - this is also an impassioned social commentary on the author's part both of sex crime in his native land and the twisted morals of some of its high-flying financial players....
What more could you want of a book?!? Truly fresh, totally compelling, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo deserves to be just as popular as the early Henning Mankell - and then some!