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Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Larsson)

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Stieg Larsson, 2005 (Eng. Trans., 2008)
Knopf Doubleday
480  pp.
ISBN-13: 9780307473479

Summary  
The first novel in Stieg Larsson’s internationally best-selling Millennium trilogy.

It’s about the disappearance forty years ago of Harriet Vanger, a young scion of one of the wealthiest families in Sweden...and about her octogenarian uncle, determined to know the truth about what he believes was her murder.

It’s about Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist recently at the wrong end of a libel case, hired to get to the bottom of Harriet’s disappearance...and about Lisbeth Salander, a twenty-four-year-old pierced and tattooed genius hacker possessed of the hard-earned wisdom of someone twice her age—and a terrifying capacity for ruthlessness to go with it—who assists Blomkvist with the investigation. This unlikely team discovers a vein of nearly unfathomable iniquity running through the Vanger family, astonishing corruption in the highest echelons of Swedish industrialism—and an unexpected connection between themselves.

It’s a contagiously exciting, stunningly intelligent novel about society at its most hidden, and about the intimate lives of a brilliantly realized cast of characters, all of them forced to face the darker aspects of their world and of their own lives. (From the publisher.)

Larsson's Millennium trilogy includes The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest.



Author Bio 
Birth—August 15, 1954
Where—Vasterbotton, Sweden
Death—November 9, 2004
Where—Stockholm Sweden


Born in Västerbotten in northern Sweden in 1954, Stieg Larsson had a professional career that bears a striking resemblance to that of the protagonist of his Millennium thrillers, Mikael Blomkvist. Beginning as a graphic designer for the news agency Tidningarnas Telegrambyra (TT), Larsson went on to become the chief editor of Expo, the magazine published by the Expo Foundation, an organization he helped establish in 1995 to combat racism and the Swedish right-wing extremist movement.

Inspired by an old joke shared with a colleague at TT, Larsson admitted he started writing the Millennium novels—The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest—just for fun. Describing them as "pension insurance," Larsson said he enjoyed the process of fiction writing so much that he didn't make contact with a publisher until he had completed the first two and had a third under way.

Though Larsson died of a heart attack in 2004 and never saw any of his books in print, all three were subsequently published in Scandinavia and continental Europe to great acclaim. He left behind the unfinished manuscript for a fourth book in the series. (From Barnes & Noble.)



Book Review
The ballyhoo is fully justified.... At over 500 pages this hardly sagged.... The novel scores on every front—character, story, atmosphere.
The Times (London)


Combine the chilly Swedish backdrop and moody psycho-drama of a Bergman movie with the grisly pyrotechnics of a serial-killer thriller, then add an angry punk heroine and a down-on-his-luck investigative journalist, and you have the ingredients of Stieg Larsson's first novel.... It's Mr. Larsson's two protagonists—Carl Mikael Blomkvist, a reporter filling the role of detective, and his sidekick, Lisbeth Salander, a k a the girl with the dragon tattoo—who make this novel more than your run-of-the-mill mystery: they're both compelling, conflicted, complicated people, idiosyncratic in the extreme.
Michiko Kakutani - New York Times


This remarkable first novel by the Swedish journalist Stieg Larsson…has been a huge bestseller in Europe and will be one here if readers are looking for an intelligent, ingeniously plotted, utterly engrossing thriller that is variously a serial-killer saga, a search for a missing person and an informed glimpse into the worlds of journalism and business…It's hard to find fault with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. One must struggle with bewildering Swedish names, but that's a small price to pay. The story starts off at a leisurely pace, but the reader soon surrenders to Larsson's skillful narrative. We care about his characters because we come to know them so well. The central question—what happened to Harriet?—is answered in due course, and other matters involving romance and revenge are wrapped up as well. It's a book that lingers in the mind.
Patrick Anderson - Washington Post


It’s like a blast of cold, fresh air to read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.... What separates Stieg Larsson’s work from [other Swedish crime fiction] is that it features at its center two unique and fascinating characters: a disgraced financial journalist and the absolutely marvelous 24-year-old Lisbeth Salander–a computer-hacking Pippi Longstocking with pierced eyebrows and a survival instinct that should scare anyone who gets in her way.
Chicago Tribune


(Starred review.) Cases rarely come much colder than the decades-old disappearance of teen heiress Harriet Vanger from her family's remote island retreat north of Stockholm, nor do fiction debuts hotter than this European bestseller by muckraking Swedish journalist Larsson. At once a strikingly original thriller and a vivisection of Sweden's dirty not-so-little secrets (as suggested by its original title, Men Who Hate Women), this first of a trilogy introduces a provocatively odd couple: disgraced financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist, freshly sentenced to jail for libeling a shady businessman, and the multipierced and tattooed Lisbeth Salander, a feral but vulnerable superhacker. Hired by octogenarian industrialist Henrik Vanger, who wants to find out what happened to his beloved great-niece before he dies, the duo gradually uncover a festering morass of familial corruption—at the same time, Larsson skillfully bares some of the similar horrors that have left Salander such a marked woman. Larsson died in 2004, shortly after handing in the manuscripts for what will be his legacy.
Publishers Weekly


Ever since Knopf editor Sonny Mehta bought the U.S. rights last November, the prepublication buzz on this dark, moody crime thriller by a Swedish journalist has grown steadily. A best seller in Europe (it outsold the Bible in Denmark), this first entry in the "Millennium" trilogy finally lands in America. Is the hype justified? Yes. Despite a sometimes plodding translation and a few implausible details, this complex, multilayered tale, which combines an intricate financial thriller with an Agatha Christie-like locked-room mystery set on an island, grabs the reader from the first page. Convicted of libeling a prominent businessman and awaiting imprisonment, financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist agrees to industrialist Henrik Vanger's request to investigate the 40-year-old disappearance of Vanger's 16-year-old niece, Harriet. In return, Vanger will help Blomkvist dig up dirt on the corrupt businessman. Assisting in Blomkvist's investigation is 24-year-old Lisbeth Salander, a brilliant but enigmatic computer hacker. Punkish, tattooed, sullen, antisocial, and emotionally damaged, she is a compelling character, much like Carol O'Connell's Kathy Mallory, and this reviewer looks forward to learning more of her backstory in the next two books (The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest). Sweden may be the land of blondes, Ikea, and the Midnight Sun, but Larsson, who died in 2004, brilliantly exposes its dark heart: sexual violence against women, a Nazi past, and corporate corruption.
Library Journal



Discussion Questions 
1. Careful observation is the foundation of any successful journalist's or private investigator's career. Discuss how the various characters' outward appearance aligned with their true personality in this novel.

2. Lisbeth Salander's character is enigmatic and antisocial throughout much of the book. What do you see as the catalyst for the slow emergence of her personality?

3. Lisbeth judges everyone harshly, including herself. What do you think of her assessment of Blomkvist?

4. While poverty, social injustice, parental abuse, and difficult childhoods are often cited as explanations for criminal behavior, Lisbeth believes in free will and choice. Do you agree?

5. What propels Blomkvist to lay aside his professional ethics and take on the investigation proposed by Vanger?

6. The relationship between Blomkvist and Cecilia is fraught from the beginning. How does Cecilia come to terms with it? What do you think about her decision?

7. How successfully does Larsson develop Lisbeth's connection to her mother? Is there anything about their relationship that helps shed light on Lisbeth's behavior?

8. Were you surprised by the book's portrayal of right-wing fanaticism and violence against women in a country known for its liberal views?

9. Which character's duplicity -- or innocence -- did you find the most unexpected? Which one emerged as your favorite?

10. Discuss Mikael Blomkvist's role in the investigation. Do you feel that he made as important a contribution as Lisbeth? Why or why not?

11. The narrative contained a number of plot twists. Who did you imagine sent the framed flowers to Vanger each year?
(Questions issued by publisher.)

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