My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A disgraced reporter and an emotionally-troubled/intellectually-gifted ward of the state pair up to solve a forty-year old locked door mystery. In the process of investigating what happened to a young woman who vanished without a trace from an island estate, they end up solving a much bigger set of mysteries– and putting their lives in peril in the process.
Both of the lead characters are well-developed and sympathetic, if not necessarily likable in a conventional sense. Mikael Blomkvist is a bit of womanizer or at least a lady’s man– whatever you wish to call him, he sleeps with at least three major female characters over the course of the book. He is also rash (or, perhaps, aggressive) in his professional life. However, he is also pragmatic and kind. Lisbeth Salander is not just tattooed but also pierced, leather-clad, and goth. Her story of female empowerment may be largely responsible for the wild success of this book. When she finds herself abused and violated, she takes matters into her own hands. Her strength and intelligence, wrapped in a package that suggests neither trait, is beguiling.
The book is obviously highly readable, but it’s oddly structured. It climaxes early, leaving well over a hundred pages at the end to wrap up subplots. This includes the disposition of Blomkvist’s professional predicament and the question of with whom he will ride off into the sunset. These are threads that couldn’t be left hanging, but it begs the question of why one reads to the bitter end– though you certainly will.
I guess I should mention that this isn’t a book for the faint of heart or the puritanical– in case one hadn’t already grasped that. It is graphic and intense in spots.
I did see the Daniel Craig/Rooney Mara version of the movie. I’m told it was not as good as the first film, which was made is Sweden (I should have mentioned the book is set in Sweden.) However, I thought it was quite good, and fairly true to the book given the challenges of turning a 650 page novel into a movie.