The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium, #1) by Stieg Larsson

Published September 22nd 2009 by Penguin Canada, Mass Market Paperback, 841 pages, ISBN-13: 9780143170099

A spellbinding blend of murder mystery, family saga and financial intrigue.

Forty years ago, Harriet Vanger disappeared from the secluded island owned by the Vanger family. No one saw her leave the island, and no body was ever found. Her uncle, Henrik, is convinced she was murdered by a member of her own dysfunctional family. Disgraced journlaist Mikael Blomkvist is hired to investigate.

But when Blomkvist uncovers new evidence, it suddenly becomes too dangerous to proceed alone. Enter Lisbeth Salander, a twenty-four-year-old pierced and tattooed genius hacker with the wisdom of someone twice her age – and a terrifying capacity for ruthlessness to go with it. She’s unwilling to take orders, rides a motorbike like a Hells Angel, and handles makeshift weapons with a skill born of rage.

Together this unlikely team unravels a dark and appalling family history. But the Vangers are a secretive clan, and Blomkvist and Salander are about to find out how far they’re prepared to go to protect themselves.

**Solid mystery-suspense, 4 Stars out of 5!

Mikael Blomkvist, early forties, a finacial journalist and part onwer of the magazine, Millennium, has just been convicted of libel against industrialist Hans-Erik Wennerstrom. He’d rather take the conviction and jail sentence than fork over the name of his source. To protect the magazine, he steps down.

Lisbeth Salander, 24, has been a ward of the state since the age of thirteen. Under a guardian, her life is pretty much topsy-turvy. While a brilliant hacker with a photographic memory, she is emotionally shut down. Questions asked that she doesn’t want to answer remain unanswered; she clams up. No one really knows her, and she’s keeping it that way.

Industrialist Henrik Vanger followed the trial, and had his lawyer hire a security firm to check into Mikael. He wants to hire him. Back in 1966, Vanger’s niece, Harriet, disappeared without a trace and is feared dead. Obsessed, Vanger wants his niece, or her killer, found. Every year, since her disappearance, on his birthday, he receives a pressed and framed flower, just like Harriet used to give him. He believes he’s being tormented, and he wants answers. Adding incentive, he promises Mikael dirt against Winnerstrom. Very reluctantly, Mikael agrees to a one-year contract, on the premise of ghostwriting Vanger’s autobiography, which would help open doors to questions he needs answered.

The Vanger family is very extensive, with several oddballs in the bunch. It takes a while to sort through who’s who, and in the meantime, Mikael is going through every stitch of paper, every photograph, that was put together on Harriet, right down to police reports. He believes he’s on a wild goose-chase, believing that, if the police weren’t able to find anything, than neither would he.

How very wrong he was. With bits of information, and old pictures found and located, Mikael begins piecing what happened to Harriet together. Later, with the help of Salander and her photographic memory and her computer skills, they break the case. Only, it’s much worse than anyone could have imagined.

And with a sweet added bonus to end the novel, and again, with the help of Salander, Mikael blows Winnerstrom and his illegal activities right out of the water.

**A lengthy mystery with a happy ending… for some of the characters.

Right from the beginning, I had a hard time with the relationship between Mikael and his partner, Erika. I could understand the long-time friendship, and I could understand the partnership with the magazine, but I really didn’t understand their sexual relationship. His marriage fell apart because he couldn’t stop sleeping with Erika, even though he loved his wife and daughter. She’s married, and yet her husband is completely okay with it. Now, I’m happily married (10 years this July 1st and have been with my husband for 15 years), so maybe that’s why I don’t understand that aspect of their relationship? *shrug* Who knows?

Despite her emotional hang-ups, I admired Lisbeth and wish I had her courage. She doesn’t take anything lying down, and plots her revenges meticulously. She’s brilliant in her strategies, a genius hacker who will find whatever it is you’re trying to hide.

I liked how Mikael treated Salander right from the beginning, never pushing for information she didn’t want to give, but he explained the terms of what a true friendship is, and gave Salander the right to choose for herself if she was willing to accept Mikael’s friendship.

While I found the book slow-paced for about the first-half of the book (of 841 pages, that is a long first-half), I could understand that the author was setting up all the characters so that, like Mikael, you can fgure out who’s who. It was needed, even though it was frustratingly slow. But by the second-half, the mystery, the action, the danger, started heating up, and I was actually surprised at who the “bad guy” was. I had my ideas on someone else, until information that Mikael and especially Lisbeth unearthed. I rooted for them both, was just as creeped out, just as fearful, just as disgusted as they were. Lisbeth ends up having to really examine her emotions, something she never did, and just when she “man’s-up” and decides to lay it all out on the table for Mikael, at the very end of the last chapter, my heart broke for Lisbeth. I won’t say what and spoil it for those who haven’t read it yet. I’ll simply state: Go get this book! It’s a must-read!

Rating:

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