Author: Stieg Larsson, 2005. Translated from the Swedish by Reg Keeland, 2008.
Genre: Euro Crime. Thriller.
Other Details: Hardback. 533 pages.
Mikael Blomkvist, investigative journalist and co-owner of Millennium Magazine, has been found guilty of libel against billionaire financier, Hans-Erik Wennerstrom . His reputation is in tatters and he is facing steep fines and a three-month prison sentence to be served later in the year. Shortly after the verdict he is approached by Henrik Vanger, head of the powerful Vanger Corporation, with the offer of a job investigating the disappearance of Vanger's great-niece, Harriet, from a family gathering some forty years previously. Although her body was never found, Vanger is convinced that Harriet was murdered and that a member of his extended family was responsible.
As a fan of detective novels, Blomkvist is intrigued by this 'locked island' mystery but is reluctant to commit a year of his life to the task feeling that after so many years it will be a fruitless exercise. However, Vanger offers him two powerful incentives; aside from a large fee he is wiling to is back Millennium financially and he also has dirt on Wennerstrom that he will hand over when the investigation is complete. Blomkvist relocates to the isolated island owned by the Vangers and begins to look into the case using the cover that he is assisting Henrik in writing an autobiography. When Blomkvist makes a connection between Harriet's disappearance and a series of grotesque murders ranging back to the late 1940s, he needs an assistant and is joined by Lisbeth Salander, a troubled young woman with brilliant computing skills. Together they further unravel the dark history of the secretive Vanger clan, not realising how far some are prepared to go to protect themselves.
I actually read this in March prior to seeing the film adaptation but had wanted to wait until after the book had been discussed in my reading group in May before writing up a review. From its opening pages, I was pretty much hooked. As with many of the Nordic crime novels, the pace is quite slow as events unfold over months rather than hours or days. There is also a lot of background detail given on the Vanger family as well as aspects of the financial world in the first hundred pages. It took me a couple of days to get through this dense section and I was very glad for the Vanger family tree provided at the beginning of the book and referred to it often. After this I found that it became impossible to put the book down as many others had reported. There are some fairly disturbing scenes and its original title "Män som hatar kvinnor" (Men who hate women) is more indicative of this than its English title.
So yes, I consider this an outstanding and memorable novel that more than met my expectations and felt worthy of the wide critical praise and awards it has received.