Ever wondered what The Silence of the Lambs would have been like if Hannibal Lecter had been a 24-year-old 4’11” hacker girl with Asperger’s? And if Clarice Starling had been a fifty-something financial journalist convicted of libel? And if—
Aw heck, I’ll just come out and say it. If you liked The Silence of the Lambs— or any murder mystery, or novel with any degree of suspense or mystery, really— you’ll like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Translated from the late Stieg Larsson’s Män som hatar kvinnor (“Men who hate women”), The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a wildly compelling page-turner that draws you into its central enigma subtly, surreptitiously, and never lets go. It follows the increasingly disturbing paths of journalist Mikael “Kalle” Blomkvist and hacker/private investigator Lisbeth “Emotionally Scarred Grown-Up Pippi Longstocking” Salander as they are engaged to solve a forty-year-old mystery: the disappearance (without a trace, naturally) of the niece of a long-retired Swedish industrial tycoon.
Without giving too much away, Larsson spins a game of cat-and-mouse that is easily as dark and violent as any book I’ve read— which, spurious rumors of my illiteracy to the contrary, covers a fair range. Neither Salander nor Blomkvist has a life full of sunshine to begin with; and, as both are gradually drawn into their employer’s obsession with the murder of his niece, they encounter a variety of obstacles, most prominently the more-or-less unexpected appearance of a sadistic serial killer (or two) attempting to impede the progress of their investigations.
In itself, none of this may seem particularly original or noteworthy. Perhaps what gives the novel its spark, then, is Larsson’s passion for his subject matter: the author’s very real and personal hatred for violence against women, modern fascism, and certain other plagues upon society burns throughout the book. The end result is a highly entertaining yarn, with enough loose ends to leave you reaching for the nest in the trilogy.