Forty years ago, Harriet Vanger disappeared from a family gathering on the island owned and inhabited by the powerful Vanger clan. Her body was never found, yet her uncle is convinced it was murder – and that the killer is a member of his own tightly knit but dysfunctional family.
He employs disgraced financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist and the tattooed, truculent computer hacker Lisbeth Salander to investigate. When the pair link Harriet’s disappearance to a number of grotesque murders from forty years ago, they begin to unravel a dark and appalling family history.
But the Vangers are a secretive clan, and Blomkvist and Salander are about to find out just how far they are prepared to go to protect themselves
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was a book I was hesitant to read. When it was released a massive hype and media storm surrounded it and I have to admit I was reluctant. I was scared that this novel would not live up to its expectations but despite this, a friend convinced me to read it and I am so happy I finally did! The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is one of the most incredible, thrilling and exhilarating novels I have ever had the pleasure of reading and along with Gone Girl and Jane Eyre it is a newly found favorite read of mine. Larsson’s skill not only as a writer but story teller has floored me and upon finishing this novel all I could do was sit in shock and amazement at what a brilliant read it was. I am sure the majority of you know all about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo but in case you don’t then here is a brief synopsis I have written for you!
Our story begins in 1966 and follows the Vanger family. 16-year-old Harriet Vanger, daughter of the CEO of the incredibly large family-run business known as Vanger Corporations goes missing from the family’s island community and is never seen again. No trace of Harriet or even her body was ever found and her great uncle Henrik Vanger has never moved on past Harriet’s disappearance and so he has explored every possible lead to discover what happened to his one and only favourite family member; Harriet.
The disappearance of Harriet has become Henrik’s obsession over the last 40 years, he has pondered over and over again about what could have possibly happened to Harriett and sadly Henrik has come to the conclusion that someone in the Vanger family must have murdered her. Although Henrick believes Harriet has been murdered he nor the police have ever been able to think of a motive or any potential perpetrators, therefore, he has no idea who to suspect and so he is stuck in a rut desperately wanting to know what happened to his most loved family member. Flash forward 39 years and it is now 2005, and Henrik is still obsessed with Harriet’s disappearance, however, time is running out for Henrik to find the answers once and for all. Henrik is an ill man with ailing health, he is growing older and sicker with each passing day so his obsession soon turns to desperation. Henrik has money and a lot of it and he decides for the last time to hire somebody to investigate Harriet’s disappearance to indulge his obsession one more time before his time runs out.
This is where the novel’s protagonist Mikael Blomkvist joins the magnificent story. Mikael is a forty-something-year-old financial journalist and editor of Millennium magazine; a magazine which he co-founded which prides itself on investigative journalism. However, Blomkvist and the magazine have suffered a major blow recently and he has been convicted and found guilty of libel against one of the biggest entrepreneurs in Sweden: Hans-Erik Wennerstrom. Whether he was liable or not you will have to read the novel to find out!
Mikael, of course, wants to keep a low-profile so he pretends that he has been fired from the magazine in order to save it from further scrutiny and attack by Wennerstrom and the media. Henrik Vanger has been following Mikael and his career for a long time and when Mikael takes a leave of absence he sees this as an opportunity to use Mikael and his resourceful knowledge and so he offers Mikael a proposition which comes at the perfect time. Upon Mikael and Henrik’s meeting, we soon learn that Mikael’s father worked once for the Vanger Corporation and Harriet herself had babysat little Mikael a few times; this is not an essential part of knowledge however it does add another depth to this novel and it helps with Mikael’s later decision. Henrik makes Mikael a proposition, that he come and live at Henrik’s estate with a year-long contract accompanied with a huge sum with the ‘pretext’ of writing a history of the family – an autobiography of Henrik – however his real mission is to discover what happened to dear Harriet.
After much convincing and reluctance from Blomkvist he finally agrees to take the job however he soon realises that this is no small task and that if he wants to finally solve this mystery then he will need the help of no one better than the incredible Lisbeth Salander; who actually knows all about Mikael as Henrik hired her to do a background check on Blomkvist in the first place.
Lisbeth Salander is a brilliant, quiet, secretive young woman who excels at what she does and is a masterful, genius hacker. Lisbeth has a troubled past which we learn a little about in the novel and she is typically a closed book but she sees something in Blomkvist and he earns her trust which takes her by surprise. The two then team up as an enigmatic duo to discover the truth about Harriet whilst also trying to clear Mikaels conviction of Libel by taking Wennerström down and this is where our novel begins.
Ok, that was not a brief synopsis, was it? I am sorry I just love this novel so much that I got carried away! I will stop my synopsis here before I spoil the novel but what I can say is that this novel takes a very dark, twisted turn and the secrets you uncover will shock you to your core.
I think it is important at this point in my review to write about Larsson’s inspiration for the novel but I warn you that this is very harrowing. Larsson’s inspiration for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo comes from a tragic and unsettling incident a young Larsson witnessed at the tender age of just 15. Larsson spoke of how he stood by as three men gang-raped an acquaintance of his named Lisbeth. Larsson, days later, was racked with guilt for having done nothing to help her and begged desperately for her forgiveness… which she refused. The incident he said has haunted him for all of his life and in part inspired him to create a character named Lisbeth Salander who is also a rape survivor in the novel. This inspiration is heartrendingly sad and I was shocked when I read about it.
The crime in this novel is sensational and unlike anything I read before and again, I can’t mention it without referring to Larsson’s other line of inspiration. Larsson’s crime inspiration for his novel comes from the murder of Catrine de Costa. Catrine de Costa was a 28-year-old Swedish prostitute who was murdered and horrifically had her body dismembered and placed in separate plastic bags all over Sweden. The sad thing about this story is that the killer was never found and him placing those bags all over Sweden was horrendous and he was playing with the police which makes me sick. I think Larsson as a writer has a very interesting way of thinking and learning about his inspiration for this novel will bring you closer to it and help you understand it better. I just wish poor Larsson was alive today so I could pick his brain about all things The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo!
The story of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo could be labelled as a ‘crime mystery’ but this novel is so much more than that; it could never be generalised because it is so special and unique and Larsson has managed to add depths and layers to this novel which makes it so much more than just a crime mystery. Instead, it is the story of a woman’s survival, a story of crime, a story of disordered personalities and so much more. No words of mine will be able to justify to you lovely readers just how much I adore this novel and what an important but enjoyable read it should be for everyone.
There is no way I can write about this novel without discussing one of the most incredible characters in the history of publishing – Lisbeth. Lisbeth is an introverted, intricate, intriguing young woman and you are immediately captured by her and her narrative. Lisbeth most importantly is a survivor and she has been surviving her whole life. She has survived the horrific state care system she had grown up in; in which she experienced unspeakable acts. She is surviving the prejudices which have sadly been placed upon her throughout her life and she has been doing all of this by herself, with no help around her so already as a reader you know what a strong character Lisbeth is. Lisbeth really is one of the most intriguing and authentic characters I have ever had the delight of reading. This novel would be nothing without her and I mean that. It would still, of course, be a great story but I truly believe that Lisbeth is what makes this novel, and her character has made this book the work of art that it is.
As readers, we have to give praise to writers with incredible minds and magnificent writing ability. That is why I praise Larsson so much for writing his novel exceptionally well. His writing will shake you to your core and blow your mind. The very first sentence I read in this novel hooked me straight away and I knew at that moment I would fall madly in love with this novel. I find it very hard these days to get attached to a book so quickly but this novel did just that and still, I am shocked that it was able to do this.
Steig Larsson was a gifted writer. His words held such power over me and all I can think about him and his work was that he was a very talented writer. It is so tragically sad that he never knew the success of his Millennium series and what an important read it became – especially for survivors – and that his life was sadly cut short. If you are not familiar with what I am talking about then I will enlighten you here. Larsson had always only ever been a Journalist and Nazi specialist, however, he decided to put pen to paper and write his series which he so badly wanted to do. He walked to his publisher and handed his three manuscripts up front but sadly, just a few days later he tragically died making him never learn the success of his novels. These next few paragraphs are going to contain a few spoilers so if you still don’t know what happens in this book and do not want to be spoiled then stick to the spoiler-free sections which will be highlighted!
Having finished reading the book and learning of Martin Vanger’s true nature it is shocking to me how much of a resemblance there is and similarities between his and his father’s gruesome crimes but also the inspiration of the true-life murder of Catrine de Costa. Martin, who is one sadistic, evil man could have easily murdered Catrine himself because of how grotesque and violent it was. As I am writing of how grotesque and immoral Martin’s crimes were, I have to mention that the crimes in this book are equally, if not more grotesque than the crime of Catrine de Costa; which is still a very shocking thought to me. The crime in this novel could surpass that of a real-life horror show. If you do not mind reading about gruesome murders and crimes and in fact have an interest in them then, of course, this is a book which you would revel in because the crimes were so disturbing that it makes your mind spin with thoughts and feelings which you would not normally be accustomed to. This is yet another reason why I loved this novel because as a lover of psychology and criminology alike I was in my element and getting to be a part of a smart and tangled investigation made me a happy woman.
Now I should talk about my thoughts on the ending, not the final ending but the ending and climax of the Vanger family saga and Martins murders. When Mikael was taken captive and strung up like a carcass by Martin my first thought was ‘Yes! Now, this is going to be intense’ and intense it was! The conversation was raw, enticing and thrilling. So thrilling that I wanted it to last longer but sadly it did not. I loved being inside the mind of the killer and because I was I was having amazing reading experience.
Spoiler-Free – To summarise my thoughts on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo I would say that this exceptional novel is a steady, streamlined, thrilling, gripping read which is distributing and creepy at the same. If you adore thrilling mystery crime novels then this certainly is the book for you and I have no choice but to give this wonderful book Five Stars!
Thank you so much for reading my review book lovers! I appreciate it so much. I truly adore interacting with all of you lovely readers so please do comment below and let me know all of those wonderful thoughts of yours! Let me know whether you have read this novel but also let me know if you haven’t and whether you would like to – I hope my review would have convinced you! Also, let me know whether you have seen the TV series or the movie, I would love to know! If you have read the rest of the series too then please let me know whether they are worth me picking up! Thank you so much again!
Goodbye for now book lovers,
P.S. Below is a preview for all of you to enjoy and if you like what you read and want to buy it then click on the link below and it will take you straight to Amazon U.K. and for all the international book lovers the Book Depository link is underneath it! Thank you so much again!
*Update – As this novel is now a movie I feel the need to quickly divulge my thoughts on it! I personally thought that the movie was insanely good and a perfect adaption of the book. The director David Fincher has a habit of adapting novels incredibly well, as we saw with Gone Girl which is one of my favourite books and movies of all time! I thought how the story was told was incredible and Fincher really captured the grim, cold setting of Sweden. The casting too was superb, especially Rooney Mara for Lisbeth; she was just amazing and I really implore all of you to watch the movie also! Thank you so much again for reading book lovers!