Stieg Larsson has presented a never-before insight into the psychology of the characters of a crime novel, not to mention an exceptional portrayal of gender relationships in Sweden.
Mikael Blomkvist, investigative financial journalist, who for most of the story appears to be the hero (unless you’ve read the reviews first, according to which Lisbeth Salander, delinquent researcher, is the main protagonist), is recruited by leading industrialist Henrik Vanger for a seemingly improbable task—find out what happened to his niece who went missing more than thirty years ago. Blomkvist, with Lisbeth’s help, meticulously uncovers subtle leads that ultimately result in a stunning outcome. He has to open a whole consignment of Pandora’s boxes on the way and deal with a large family of oddballs who would put a prime-time soap opera to shame. The way the unpredictable Lisbeth goes about her business leaves you in awe.
However, “Kalle” Blomkvist unwittingly comes across as a wannabe James Bond who beds practically every other woman that he bumps into, leaving you to speculate how much Larsson (who was an activist-journalist) saw of himself in his hero. At the beginning of each part, there are some purported statistics about sexual excesses committed against Swedish women. I would venture to say that if the behaviour of the average Swedish woman resembles that of the female characters of this book, then they’re probably asking for it. Further, the story is unnecessarily padded in places with descriptions of walks, meals and sleep.
There is a financial/corporate intrigue angle ripe with possibilities but Larsson fails to exploit it. When it comes to gathering critical information, the methods depicted are a bit fanciful—Lisbeth simply hacks into people’s computers and proceeds to gain absolute control. Practically speaking, installing a simple key-logger in your coworker’s PC is an uphill task, let alone remotely manipulate laptops of people to whom you’re not connected in any way.
A fresh approach to a stale crime, but doesn’t live up to the hype.