What was the last book that you read that you couldn't stop thinking about whilst you were at work? That you couldn't wait to have a moment to yourself so that you could curl up and read about what happened next?
Mine happened in the last week and a half whilst reading this book by author Stieg Larsson.
Mikael Blomkvist is a disgraced journalist who has just been convicted of libel against one of the most powerful men and companies in Sweden. The damage to his reputation and his magazine, "Millennium" is substantial, and he decides to take time off to let things die down.
Almost immediately, he is contacted by Henrik Vanger, the head of a large family corporation who requests Blomkvist to undertake an assignment for one whole year to discover what happened to a sixteen year old girl in the Vanger family 40 years previous.
Henrik Vanger is convinced that foul play has played a part in the young girls demise and that one of the Vanger family members had murdered her. With the help of a genius loner hacker by the name of Lisbeth Salander, Blomkvist delves into the Vanger past where there are very dark secrets.
When he discovers more than anyone did in 1966, Salander and Blomkvist realise there are people that will do anything to keep what happened a secret...
I had not even started reading this when my manager at work saw the book on my desk and announced that she had read it and had thought it was brilliant. She then told me to persevere in the first couple of chapters in the book as its quite difficult to get your head round, but it does get better.
Well, she wasn't wrong. In all honesty, I was very close to giving up at one point. The reader is introduced to the story as Blomkvist is giving press interviews after his conviction of libel. We are then taken back to how he ended up in that predicament, when he is tipped off by a friend about the dodgy dealings of multimillionaire, Wennerstrom.
During these first couple of chapters, there is a lot of talk about financial companies and dealings and it was really quite hard to grasp.
As much as I understood at the time was that the person that Blomkvist was about to do an expose on was a crook..but somehow, this all went wrong.
The second section of the book deals with Blomkvists meeting with Henrik Vanger. Now at old age, Henrik is still obsessed with the disappearance f his great neice and explains why he thinks Harriet was murdered by someone in the family.
The only thing I found difficult with the subsequent chapters following on from this story was getting around the immense amount of names in the Vanger family. There is however a family tree at the beginning of the book that you can check on to suss out who is who! Its not ideal, but with all the 'H' names (Henrik, Harald, Harriet etc) its completely necessary until eventually the names become familiar!
During this story, we are introduced to "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" - Lisbeth Salander. I found Lisbeth a really interesting character. The book flits between Lisbeth's story and her perspective and Blomkvist's.
Lisbeth is a delinquent, having had a troubled childhood and many run ins with the police, the authorities have pretty much written her off as a half wit. This is not the case as she is soon helping Blomkvist with the research using her brilliant hacker skills. I completely empathised with this character and willed her to let down her guard and trust in Blomkvist. It made an interesting thread to the crime story running through and I found myself almost as interested in her social progress throughout as I did them solving the crime!
By about half way through this book I was completely hooked! Once the story was established and I had pretty much worked out who was who with all the Swedish names, the story was fast paced and had me on the edge of my seat. The clues are realistic without being silly and its enjoyable seeing how these things are pieced together. The writing is lively, completely compelling and I literally couldn't put the book down.
It has a great deal of suspense and for me it was the perfect crime thriller which had characters of substance, with great back stories that added much more interest to the story. The character of Lisbeth Salander was a refreshing change from most traditional female detectives, and the relationship and chemistry between her and Mikael Blomkvist was just brilliant.
This story was so vivid (sometimes quite violent) and entertaining, I could without hesitation see it being translated to the screen. Aside from the financial chapters at the beginning, I cannot fault it, reading this was a pleasure and I almost didn't want it to end.
I cannot wait for the next two books to be translated in to English. It is such a shame that the author died so young, other than it being a tragedy that he died at such a young age and so suddenly, we are now deprived of an incredible writer, one that I would without a moments hesitation, buy every book he published in the future.