Initially I was excited to see what all the fuss was about and why it had sold millions of copies. However that soon faded as I waded through the clunky writing (although to be fair I have only read the translation).
All the descriptions are well-worn clichés, “they had a connection as addictive as heroin”, and the book is full of mundane passages giving an unnecessary breakdown of how Mikael Blomkvist spends each minute of each day :
“Instead on Monday he took the bus into Hedestad and spent the afternoon walking into town, visiting the library, and drinking coffee to see The Lord of the Rings, which he had never before had time to see. “
And Blomkvist, the “hero”, is really annoying. He is the only financial journalist I know who can go away for as long as he wants, not tell his editors what he is writing about and who has an unlimited budget. But the most annoying thing about him is that every woman he meets, young and old, throw themselves at him without Blomkvist having to lift a finger.
The book doesn’t take off until he meets computer hacker Lisbeth Salander, a “heroine” who can calmly assess whether to use a gun, knife, bomb or poison against her guardian. She explains Salander’s Principles:
“One of them is that a bastard is always a bastard, and if I can hurt a bastard by digging up shit about him, then he deserves it.”
Larsson does a good job of creating sympathy for Salander despite constantly telling, instead of showing, the reader about “her lack of emotional involvement” by highlighting her intelligence, her loyalty to the few people who have shown her any kindness and her adherence to her own moral code:
“There are no innocents. There are, however, different degrees of responsibility.”
After finishing The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo I hadn’t intended to complete the trilogy but a friend urged me to continue to find out what happened to Salander in the “Great Evil”.
The banal dialogue and characterisation didn’t get any better but my friend was right in that the plot gets tighter and veers off in unexpected directions. I read on because the last two books focus more on Slander than Blomkvist. She becomes the rebel battling corruption in the highest reaches of the Swedish government, at great cost to herself, and that is ultimately a winning formula.
The best reason for the trilogy’s success is probably found in The Girl with Dragon Tattoo itself – in its description of Blomkvist’s book :
It was uneven stylistically, and in places the writing was actually rather poor – there had been no time for any fine polishing – but the book was animated by a fury that no reader could help but notice.