By Stieg Larsson
Protagonists: Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander
Setting: Hedeby Island, Sweden
I'm always hesitant to read a book that is enthusiastically recommended as a "best" something. So when Ali Karim, an assistant editor at the e-zine Shots, praised The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, calling it "one of the greatest crime-fiction novels I have ever read," well, I thought, I'm bound to be disappointed. But Ali was pretty close to the mark -- this is a great novel, an updated take on the locked-room mystery with some thriller elements thrown in.
The story revolves around the Vanger clan, which owns a once-great but fading corporation. The head of the family, 82-year-old Henrik Vanger, hires Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist who has just lost a libel suit and is facing jail time, to unravel a 40-year-old mystery: the disappearance of his niece, 16, from the family's secluded island on a day when the island's one bridge was inaccesible. Vanger fears one of his own family murdered his niece. Blomkvist is facing his own troubles: his magazine Millennium is fighting for its survival after the libel suit, and he's sure that the person he was found to have libeled -- industrialist Hans-Erik Wennerstrom -- is a guilty man. Vanger dangles him information about Wennerstrom and a fat paycheck if Blomkvist takes the job and moves to the island. So he does, and eventually hires as an assistant Lisbeth Salander, 24, a troubled young woman who is also a brilliant computer hacker. And so the fun begins ...
This is a massive 535-page tome (after all, we have to unravel all the family secrets), but it moves quickly, for the most part (dragging just a little at the end). Luckily, author Stieg Larsson wrote this as the first part of a Millennium trilogy (the English version of the second book will be released next January). Unfortunately, shortly after finishing the trilogy, Larsson, a Swedish journalist who battled racism and the far right, died suddenly of a heart attack. With only three books, Larsson indeed leaves behind a small legacy, but once that will only enrichen the crime fiction genre.