Goodreads Description: "Mikael Blomkvist, a once-respected financial journalist, watches his professional life rapidly crumble around him. Prospects appear bleak until an unexpected (and unsettling) offer to resurrect his name is extended by an old-school titan of Swedish industry. The catch—and there's always a catch—is that Blomkvist must first spend a year researching a mysterious disappearance that has remained unsolved for nearly four decades. With few other options, he accepts and enlists the help of investigator Lisbeth Salander, a misunderstood genius with a cache of authority issues. Little is as it seems in Larsson's novel, but there is at least one constant: you really don't want to mess with the girl with the dragon tattoo."
My Review: This is a fantastic book. It's not fantastic because it is enjoyable to read and makes you feel good and gives you the warm fuzzies---exactly the opposite, actually. It's shocking and graphic, but the writing is like a having a bucket of cold water dumped on your head. Larsson throws in tons of unnecessary details that we don't need to know, but that only makes the story more realistic, in my opinion. Larsson was trying to send the message that characters aren't only people when they are dealing with the central plot---they are people, and alive, even when they're just eating a sandwich and doing some research on a computer. And how realistic his characters seemed played a big role in making this book awesome. Because instead of seeming unrealistic---like Dan Brown novels (LOVE me some Dan Brown novels, but sorry...they're so unrealistic)---suddenly the plot in the book seems like it COULD happen, even though it seems too outlandish and dramatic and gory to actually exist. And when you really stop to read about all the atrocities that are committed against women around the world, you realize: this book is VERY plausible.
The crime is well-paced and it builds up slowly, almost driving you crazy with anticipation, but it works to the book's advantage, because you keep flipping the pages frantically, wanting to know what the heck happened to Harriet Vanger and how Lisbeth Salander is connected to this whole mess and where Blomkvist and Salander are going to end up.
Speaking of Salander...she's a badass. Enough said. Sure, there are many aspects of her personality that are unlikable---perhaps even detestable---but, again, that's realistic. Real humans are flawed. And even though Salander is flawed and made me grit my teeth with annoyance sometimes, she was also cold and clinical and awesome. I liked how she was damaged and lonely and weird, yet she was still competent and independent. Lisbeth Salander does not need saving and I pity the poor sucker who tries to save her. It was great how she actually did her research and used her skills to solve her problems. Sometimes heroines just have an "Aha!" moment of brilliance and solve all the issues... Yeah, no. Not buying it. ALSO, I loved that she was short and petite, proving that small women who look like girls and aren't fierce warriors can also be competent, strong women.
Speaking of women...another winning factor in this book is the fact that Larsson coldly addresses the problem women face in this world...which is that they are routinely assaulted and abused at the hands of men, and no one seems to really care. Larsson brings light to a subject that a lot of people think is no big deal, and flat out rejects this claim and tells us: "No. This is a serious, dangerous issue, and because of a lack of care for this issue, women are routinely murdered and exploited. And they are humans, and therefore we should care about this issue the same as we would care if it were children being murdered."
Through a great combination of facts, detailed story-telling, intricate plots, realistic characters, and really intense and intriguing crime, Stieg Larsson has crafted basically a perfect crime novel.
And now I'm dying to read the two sequels.
Cover: It's simple and catchy and it does the trick, so I have no complaints.
Overall Grade: A+