Okay...I admit it...I just don't get the whole Stieg Larsson hysteria. After all the hype, I had been relishing getting stuck into this - but in the end I just thought it was a very average thriller. I've tried to be objective about it - maybe I was affected by the hyperbole, maybe I was in the wrong mood, maybe I expected too much, maybe, maybe, maybe...but when all's said and done, I don't think any of that was the case. At the risk of committing literary heresy, I just think this is a not-very-good thriller. There. I've said it.
I know it's a worldwide phenomenon. I know I'm in a minority. But I didn't like it. There are plenty of people who will disagree with me - and Lord knows, it's just one opinion - but I honestly can't put my hand on my heart and say it was even okay.
Whilst I thought the premise was promising (eccentric tycoon commissions disgraced investigative journalist to solve a 40-year-old mysterious disappearance), the plotting was leaden, most of the characters irredeemably unlikeable (with the possible exception of Salander) and the sub-plots completely detached and irrelevant.
I'm not going to be so crass as to suggest how the late Larsson might have written it differently - I'm not qualified to do that - but I do think I was forced to spend an unholy amount of time at the start being given reasons to dislike the central character Michael Blomqvist, finding out more than I needed to know (in the context of relevance to the core storyline) about how he came to commit the libel that will ultimately land him in prison and generally being taken through a series of scenarios and situations that, I discovered, have little, if anything, to do with the key plot.
It's not even as though the story (or finale) is remarkably unique. Whilst it's true to say the solution to the puzzle isn't obvious, neither is it so outlandishly surprising or shocking that it redeems the turgidity of some of what precedes it.
In truth, I feel somewhat silly writing all this. Surely I must be missing something? Talking to my father, who loved it, I can't avoid the creeping suspicion that I have overlooked some aspect or element of the book that has elicited the oohs and ahhs of appreciation that I have heard from so many others. If it's there, then I am either horribly under-appreciative, fiendishly difficult to please or simply stupid. Or perhaps everyone else is a gullible victim of publisher rhetoric. The only way to judge is to read it for yourself.