Anyone who hasn't been living under a rock for the past 8 months has heard of the late Swedish author Stieg Larsson, or has heard about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (book OR movie OR forth-coming American movie). His books were written a few years ago before his untimely death, but have been on the best-selling lists for months. I think the third book The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest is still on our bestselling fixtures at B&N, and has been since I started working at my current store in June. All three of these books are outstanding and a great read for any mystery/thriller enthusiast, but for the sake of this blog I'm really just going to introduce the first book. At least this way, I can have two other books to write about while I'm reading long novels..
The first thing you should know about this book is to not get frustrated with it. The first 50 pages or so are dense, dry, complicated, and generally boring, but I assure you, once the ball is rolling, it speeds along. The beginning of the book details journalist Mikael Blomkvist's trial for libel, and also introduces the backstory of the dark and troubled computer hacker Lisbeth Salander, our story's uncouth heroine. The Swedish names and terms coupled with all the law jargon made it very slow-going indeed. However, after the general backstory is finished, the Vanger mystery finally gets introduced and things finally start happening.
After 40 years of uncertainty, aging Henrik Vanger hires Blomkvist, known for being a thorough investigatory journalist, to solve the disappearance and presumed murder of his beloved niece Harriet once and for all. And so, with the help of Salander, Blomkvist delves into the files and history of the corrupt Vanger clan, seeking to settle the matter once and for all. Who killed Harriet Vanger? Where is her body? Why is her diary full of odd Biblical passage references? As their investigation continues, the scandals keep piling. Nazism, financial and business feuds, and familial abuse all play a part in the journalist's part, while Salander fights her own battles against her state-appointed guardian, and the government she rebels against and despises with every fiber of her being.
This book (and the series) is outstanding, and definitely deserves 9 out of 10 points (the introduction loses a point for being so difficult to get through). It was interesting through and through, and once you get used to the Swedish names and jargon, it's much more understandable (no more glossing through names of characters, street names, and so on). It's no wonder The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest is in its 34th week on the bestseller lists; Stieg Larsson is an incredible mystery writer and it's such a shame that he died so young and before his works were so widely acknowledged and embraced.
Stay tuned, as I try to finish the last book in A Tale of Two Cities and New York. If I don't finish one of these books soon, there might be a problem..
And one quick sidenote.. Although I don't generally condone seeing movies adapted from novels, the Swedish movie adaptation of this book is insanely good. Just keep the subtitles on, and make sure you see the Swedish version with Noomi Rapace rather than the forthcoming Americanized version!