The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

This mash-up of political thriller and murder mystery (480 pages) was published in September of 2008 by Knopf. The book takes you to Sweden. Melissa read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if she didn't recommend it.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

Millennium Series

Stieg Larsson, Reg Keeland (translator)

We have Stieg Larssen — or, more accurately, his contradictory and beguiling heroine Lisbeth Salander — to thank for the proliferation of Nordic Noir, and this 2005 novel remains the best.

This grindingly suspenseful novel is an adroit combination of locked-room mystery, character study, political thriller, and family saga that begins in the 1990s and reaches back through time to the 1960s and WWII.

When we meet our antihero journalist Mikael Blomkvist, he’s just lost a libel case and will soon be reporting to jail for three months. At loose ends until his sentence starts, he’s offered a somewhat sinister lifeline by the patriarch of one of the wealthiest families in Sweden — the Vangers. Forty years ago, Henrik Vanger’s beloved niece disappeared, and he wants Mikael to use his investigative journalistic skills to dig into the case.

To solve the decades-old mystery, Mikael is forced to get to know the siblings in the Vanger family, and they are terrible: damaged, inconsistent, ruthless, wildly intelligent, and shut off from the rest of the world by their estate and their privilege. They’re quite like the bleak, cold, unwelcoming island on which they all live in homes that flank the original family manse.

Then Lisbeth Salander, punk hacker and a talented investigator in her own right, enters the picture. Covered in tattoos and emitting a loud F-off vibe, she’s also brutally intelligent and an unrelenting cyber spy.

When she and Mikael team up, they uncover secrets galore, unintentionally set off emotional bombs that rock the Vangers, put themselves in shocking danger, and ultimately, discover what really happened on that summer day in the ’60s.

Much stronger boys in her class soon learned that it could be quite unpleasant to fight with that skinny girl. Unlike other girls in the class, she never backed down, and she would not for a second hesitate to use her fists or any weapon at hand to protect herself. She went around with the attitude that she would rather be beaten to death than take any shit. — Stieg Larssen

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Set in Sweden, Scotland, England, Canada, and Salem, Massachusetts, these stories place memorable characters in dire circumstances so we can live vicariously — and safely — through them. Welcome home.

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