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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo    by Stieg Larsson order for
Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
by Stieg Larsson
Order:  USA  Can
Knopf, 2008 (2008)
Hardcover, CD
* * *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

Every now and then an absolute gem emerges from the thousands of mysteries published each year by the many dozens of publishers in the world. The late Stieg Larsson's exquisite new novel is one of those rare treasures.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the first volume in the Millennium Trilogy (named after the magazine where the protagonist works); already published to critical and popular acclaim in Scandinavian and European countries, an English translation (by Steven T. Murray) is now available to readers in North America and England.

When the novel begins in Stockholm, two separate story lines begin to take shape. First, the investigative reporter and magazine publisher Mikael Blomkvist has been convicted of libeling Hans Erik Wennerstrom, a disreputable but powerful businessman; now, with his professional and personal life in shambles, Mikael must figure out how to reestablish his reputation. Second, Lisbeth Salander has been establishing herself as a singularly effective though unconventional private investigator, and her tortured and tawdry past seems to be the perverse key to her peculiar success.

Blomkvist is then surprised to find himself working on a special assignment on behalf of Henrik Vanger, an octogenarian industrialist who wants Blomkvist to do two things: write a history of the Vanger family (a family with plenty of secrets) and find out what really happened to Harriet Vanger (the sixteen year old granddaughter of Henrik's brother Richard) who disappeared from the family estate on Hedeby Island as 'if she had dissolved into thin air' nearly forty years earlier. Vanger promises to generously reward Blomkvist for his efforts, and - if he is successful - Vanger promises a bonus: important information about Hans Erik Wennerstrom that Blomkvist can use to vindicate himself and to destroy Wennerstrom.

In a convergence of the two separate story lines, Blomkvist and Salander wind up working together on the case of Harriet Vanger, 'a sort of locked room mystery in {an} island format.' Soon, even as their relationship becomes more complicated and interesting, they begin to discover clues - especially through Bible verses and Biblical names - that will help them close in on someone who may be a sadistic serial murderer, a bloodthirsty person whose many victims may have included the missing Harriet Vanger. And just as Blomkvist and Salander are also about to expose some mind-boggling Vanger family secrets, they find themselves in very grave danger.

Any amount of praise and superlatives are quite insufficient, but let me just say that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is dramatic, powerful, literate, complex, provocative, unique, and exciting. Even if you read a hundred others this year, you will not read a better mystery novel than Stieg Larsson's first installment in what promises to be an amazing trilogy. Don't miss it!

2nd Review by Mary Ann Smyth:

When you open a new book, it's as though you are in the mind set for a new romance. First the casual flirting, then catching a look across a room with promise in the eyes. Signals start going out and before you know it, you are in the throes of a passionate relationship. So it goes with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The first few pages of the story don't seem to be leading anywhere. Then interest sparks. Intrigue builds and very soon the reader is passionately involved with a stunning read.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is multilayered, with concurrent stories running through the novel. Mikael Blomkvist is convicted of libel. He had what he thought was information credible enough to convict a multinational businessman of all kinds of financial fraud. As he suffers public humiliation and loses the trust of readers of the magazine he and his sometime (though married) lover own, an aging industrialist hires him to ghost write his family's history. At the same time, he wants Blomkvist to find what happened to his sixteen-year-old grand niece thirty-six years before. She simply disappeared from a village on an island whose bridge was blocked. If Blomkvist can do this, the industrialist will provide him with material that will destroy the fraudulent businessman.

The search leads Blomkvist to connect up with a computer hacker, Lisbeth Salander, who does research beyond belief. She is the old-time hippie type, reclusive, doesn't socialize, does not like to be touched, and refuses to answer questions when she doesn't care to. She appears to have no emotions and refuses to allow anyone to get close to her. And, of course, she is the one with the dragon tattoo.

This debut novel (with two more to follow) is one you will not forget soon. The crimes committed are most outrageous and in mysterious circumstances. To top it off, most of what unfolds takes place on a Swedish island - rather like a locked room mystery. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a book well worth reading for the descriptive material alone. The plot, however, is so good, it's hard to put the book down. Treat yourself to a really fine read. Unfortunately, author Steig Larsson is no longer with us, so we have only two remaining books in the series to really get to know and like Lisbeth. The love affair has begun.

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