I’ve been reading the hype about this one for a few months (well, since I hit on the new method of procrastination that is reading book blogs), and the plot, the characters and some of the writing is really up to the hype.
I say some of the writing because it has been translated from the Swedish and still bears the traces of having been written in another language. On the whole, it has been excellently translated, and it may only be because I dabble in translating myself that I picked it up. However, I think that this is more than made up for by the charm of the Swedish setting. The translator has wisely decided not to meddle with the Swedish street names and newspapers, with the result that the setting is very robustly documented.
But on to a more positive note. The characters are very well-developed, if a little implausible; I have less trouble believing in an abused, pierced, tattooed, anorexic hacker (particularly having just recently watched Hackers) than I do a forty-something successful investigative journalist who makes progress with a missing person case from the 1960s and seems to bed every woman he meets. Each to their own, I suppose. However, the descriptions are intriguing and internally consistent. Larsson doesn’t make the mistake of trying to have too many main characters, but gives us everything we need to know, and just a bit extra for interest, about each of the players.
The plot was the real strength of this book. I do like a good crime novel (see my addiction to anything by David Baldacci, Sue Grafton or Sara Paretsky) and this one had some astonishingly good twists, revelations, dead-ends and tantalising clues dropped in along the way. The ending really surprised me (twice) and, to my delight, the first “ending” came about two-thirds into the book, so there was still plenty of time to rejoice in the cleverness of the discovery; I hate books that end abruptly. What I will say is that it is violent. I thought I didn’t have much of a problem with violence in books (again, see Baldacci, whose adventures inevitably end in a shoot-out), but this surprised me. I don’t think it detracts from the book – this is more of a warning. I won’t be going to see the film.
Will I read the other two in the Millennium Trilogy? Probably. I’m not about to run out into the pouring rain to buy them, but if I happen across them at a bookstall I’ll pick them up.