I had put off reading this book for a while, purely on the basis of th large amount of hype that has surrounded it in the last twelve months in the UK. Last year it was one of the ‘must-reads’ of the summer. So I waited for this summer to read it.
The author, Stieg Larson, who died suddenly, shortly after completing the final book in his Millennium Trilogy, of which The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the first, was a journalist and committed socialist. His politics is a key part of the context to the story. At one level the whole novel is a biting critique of wealth and privilege. But it is also a very complex and superb crime novel.
It first seems as if the novel will centre around the character of Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist working on a left-wing magazine which specialises in the exposing of corruprion in the corridors of power and high finance. However, the real hero of the book is Libeth Salander, a part-punk, part-avenging angel, a twenty-something with a troubled past that has left her emotionally illiterate (there is also a suggestion of autism or Asperger’s Syndrome) and unable to form meaningful relationships with other human beings, especially men. But she is superbly intelligent, fearless to the point of being foolhardy, and with a strong, if rather unconventional, sense of morality. She might not be the kind of person you would want to spend much time with in the real world, perhaps, but she is a brilliantly complex character (both invincible and vulnerable), with whom you definitely want to spend time between the pages of the novel. For once this is a novel that lives up to its hype – a suprbly plotted thriller with political bite.