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4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 28 December 2009
I have just finished reading this book which was recommended to me by a friend. As someone who is not usually a crime fiction fan (I certainly never buy them), I was not very enthusiastic about it but had some curiousity because of the rave reviews it was getting in other areas also. I found the beginning of the book a bit tedious and was starting to think it was not for me, but, all of a sudden, it got a grip and I found that I was most reluctant to put it down! I have now had the satisfaction of finishing it this morning after a record reading time. I found the book most entertaining, evoking many differing emotions - suspense, disgust, intrigue, and some laughs also. The location being in Sweden was interesting and the translation certainly did not affect the impact of the storytelling. The two main characters were likeable and I grew fond of them and found myself caring about them. The author certainly can reach the reader and at the end, my main emotion was one of satisfaction. I certainly intend to the read his other two books.
Jean Ross
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VINE VOICEon 14 August 2008
Some incredible thrillers are coming from Scandinavian countries these days. Anyone who is a fan of the Kurt Wallander series of books by Henning Mankell will know what I mean. Now we have a new addition to the shelf, courtesy of deceased author, Stieg Larsson.

This is the first volume in the Millenium trilogy and after finishing this first book, I am very much looking forward to the next two volumes. Larssson died in 2004 soon after delivering the manuscripts for 3 crime novels to his publisher. It's a pity that this gifted author isn't around for a long time to come.

The tale is split between the shady secrets of a wealthy family and the murky dealings of a famous businessman. Mikael Blomkvist, a recently convicted journalist, is hired by Henrik Vanger to investigate the disappearance of his niece almost 40 years ago. Vanger promises Blomkvist the means to clear his good name as part of the payment and Blomkvist accepts.

The author manages to maintain an excellent pace throughout, but still delivers a strong social lesson while providing the thrills. It is an intelligent thriller with a conscience. Probably one of the best of its kind in recent years.
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on 5 February 2012
If you, like me are a Patrica Cornwall and/or James Patterson fan who has in recent years found yourself wondering "Didn't I read this already?" about their new releases, then this is the way to go. It's something completely different and yet strangely similar which will have you feeling like you've just started reading crime fiction all over again.

I had to start this book twice before I finally managed to read it through. The pace for the first half of the book is very, very slow. This combined with an unusually "choppy" writing style, which I assume may be down to translation can make breaking the barrier on this book quite challenging, so much so that you will no doubt be tempted to give it up and be left wondering what all the hype was about but this would be a mistake in my opinion.

Once the book "got going" it engaged me fully, I found myself wanting to read on and on. Perhaps the most striking difference between this novel and those I usually read is the unpredictability of the characters. Stieg Larsson manages to create characters which SHOULD be dislikeable e.g. Michael is a man who sleeps around and believes any woman, married or not is fair game and Lisbeth is an anti-social misfit with no little emotional intelligence, but nonetheless you do like them and you want to read on to see what happens with each of them next.

The background of the book being set in Sweden adds an unusual backdrop to the novel, and whereas I've historically found anything set outside of the US or UK difficult to get involved in, this wasn't the case here - probably due to the very descriptive nature of Larsson's writing, which I admit at times can be a little TOO much but ultimately I as grateful for as it allowed me to get a much better "feel" for the surroundings of the characters and made the read on the whole, much richer.

The story itself is about a disgraced journalist (Michael Blomkvist) who winds up conducting an investigation into a cold case missing person investigation for a wealthy, old media tycoon. During his investigation he crosses paths with Lisbeth Salander, a private investigator who has been declared mentally incompetent by the state but is infact a computer genius with very little social savvy. When the two characters finally meet and team up to solve the mystery, the real "chemistry" happens and you'll stop wondering what the hype was about and start wondering when you should download/buy the second book.

In short, this is one of the best novels and certainly one of the most unique (along with the next two books) I've read in several years. Don't be put off by the unusual writing style or the slow start as if this turns out to be a novel you love or hate, you'll at least be able to say you've read one of the most popular "cult" authors of this century as Larsson has undeniably become.
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My overall impression of `The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' is positive and I will remember a lot of the strong aspects of the writing, notably the unique characterisation and the Nordic backdrop described. Central to the plot are Kalle' Blomquist, a journalist convicted of libel who serves out his penance between jail and the isolated wilds of Norrland + Lisbeth Salander, an expert system hacker and all-round investigator. Blomquist is employed to investigate the unsolved disappearance of Harriet Vanger in the 1960's. At first he is not really interested but as Blomquist delves into the complex layers of the horrible Vanger dynasty he picks up clues that will ultimately lead to the truth, amid a Silence of the Lambs tale of horror. The social misfit Salander is the star of the book; a complex irrational character who joins up with Blomquist after originally being employed to investigate him. Together the expose the horrible truth and then set about taking down the corrupt businessman that Blomquist had supposedly libelled. It is a bleak tale with no clean cut heroes - Blomquist is clever but lacking in common sense and with awkward social skills in dealing with women. There is a struggle in reading the book where the narrative is over descriptive and long winded, particularly early on when adapting to the style. Sometimes you know what is coming but it takes five extra pages to get there through the extra unnecessary passages. Will have a break before reading the next book - The Girl Who Played with Fire (Millennium Trilogy)

I would advise persevering with the early chapters and wait for the hook the draws you into this harrowing tale.
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on 19 July 2010
I was unsure about this, as I was keen to learn if the many millions of sales meant it was indeed a good book, or just lots of band-wagon jumping, followed by even more just seeing if it's worth the fuss (like me). So I asked a friend who had just finished reading it, who told me it was one of her favourite books and a must-read! So I bought it and saw for myself.

I learned two things having taken that decision. Firstly, that sales figures are not directly proportional to quality (ok so I should have got that from the Da Vinci Code), and secondly, that my friend has pretty poor taste in books.

Perhaps that is a little harsh because, as you can see from the 3 star rating, it's not *that* bad. It's just not that great either. I'm just surprised anyone could think of this as one of their favourite books. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with it, save for some utterly pointless detail about the model and spec of a laptop, and totally unnecessary info on the great shareware the main character uses. It's just a little weak overall. For example some pretty far fetched story telling and pretty unbelievable "twists". The characterisation is decent, but far too many points are drilled home (yes, she's a tough girl despite being tiny, we get it!). The closed room mystery works until the reveal, when it just really doesn't add up given what we've already been told. And there are a few too many sections where you just feel a little bored. I've read that Larsson's widow didn't want it edited at all - she wanted it released exactly as he wrote it. Completely understandable, but a definite error.

In brief, if like me you find it impossible to resist making your own mind up about this book, the huge array of ratings will likely encourage rather than dissuade you against this, and certainly nothing I can say would do so. But if you do want my advice (as opposed to any given in the other 500+ reviews) I don't think it's really worth it. It will no doubt sound harsh, but if Larsson was alive, and if a billion other people hadn't already read it, I'm pretty sure you wouldn't either. I know I wouldn't have.
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on 28 January 2012
I was bought this as a Christmas gift and was eager to start reading straight away due to the hype over the millenium trillogy. I started reading it and I have to say the first few chapters were a real struggle to get through, however after that in my opinion the book does not fail to disappoint!

I am very glad I decided to stick with it as it soon became very interesting after the first few chapters. The book flits back and too between two charachters until they both meet and therefore encouraged me to read chapter after chapter as the suspense was brilliant.

I do have one little gripe, I feel the author put way to much detail into things and it was very unnecessary at times. Although at times it could be very off putting if you'd rather the author get to the point it is still a brilliantly executed book with a brilliant plot.

Overall I have rated it 4 stars due to slow starts and too much unwanted detail however I would recommend anyone on the fence to download it and stick with it as it does not disappoint.
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on 13 November 2009
This is a very enjoyable, if slightly flawed, start to the highly-publicised 'Millennium Trilogy'.

The book suffers, in my opinion, from a lack of editing and from a somewhat pedestrian translation. Both of these become apparent in the first 70-odd pages, in an often dull introduction that needs to be persevered with to enjoy the action to come.

'Kalle' Blomquist (an Astrid Lindgren character, one of many Swedish references awkwardly dealt with by the translation) is clearly a sexed-up version of Larsson himself; and is convicted of libel against a businessman which has something to do with an over-long account of industrial fraud in Eastern Europe. He eventually decamps to the frozen wastes of Norrland to investigate a decades-old disappearance.

He is eventually, inevitably, joined by Lisbeth Salander, an 'investigator' with severe social dysfunction (apart from when conning international businessmen and financiers).

There are plenty of 'first novel' type holes in the plot which surely a good editor should clear up. The opening chapter concerns a clue that is completely ignored until the very end, when the author remembered it and had to clear it up.

However these criticisms should not mask what, for 75% of the book, is a cracking good read. It becomes sort of Agatha Christie meets Val McDermid, a locked room mystery crossed with sadistic serial killer(s). As a frequent visitor to Norrland myself, the life of a small community is impeccably rendered, and it was a personal pleasure to recognise favourite towns like Umea and Skelleftea in the narrative.

The first 50 pages are a bit dull, the last 50 become a bit absurd, but in between you will find a fine 4-star thriller that saw me enjoyably through a week's tube journeys to work. Hopefully the author will grow into his characters, and I look forward to meeting them again in the two remaining books.
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on 22 June 2011
This book was recommended by three separate friends who said they couldn't put it down and had read the whole trilogy one after another so my expectations were high.

I found it quite a tedious read in parts, too much mundane and unnecessary detail which did nothing to move the plot along (do I care what kind of sandwich the characters had or even that they were having a sandwich?) The translation was clumsy and pulled me out of my reading - particularly the dialogue.

I could see the bones of a good story although very reminiscent of Val McDermid who wrote one of the books read by the journalist character - another detail we didn't need. Those bones were buried beneath a "what I did on my holidays" style narrative where every detail is reported and given equal weight

It's such a pity that the author died before having chance to revise the book with a good editor - it could have been so much better; he was there with the plot and that's what I look for in a novel. I can forgive less than fabulous prose even in a published author but there's no excuse for a bad translation - that was just terrible! It seemed like the translator wasn't a native English speaker, or was just lazy and translated Swedish idiom directly into English which doesn't work.

3 stars because I appreciated the potential and enjoyed the "good" bits but, for me, the book needs to be edited down by about half to get rid of the bits that made me groan.
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VINE VOICEon 7 September 2010
I'm an occasional reader of thrillers (Rankin, Paretsky and Block being among my preferred authors) given the attention this has had I thought I'd try it as one of my holiday reads this year. Having done so I'm a bit mystified by the attention it has received.

It not a bad book, the core plot around the disappearance of Harriet Vanger is very good and mainly well-handled even if the outcome is a little predictable. At points I was absolutely hooked by the story but at others much less so.

I found it difficult to get into, the prose is clunky (not sure how much of that is down to the translation) and the story telling leisurely - it's about 100 pages in before it really gets going. It then seems to grind to a halt completely about 2/3 of the way through. Before the Harriet plot is rather speedily resolved. There is then a lengthy and rather tedious coda to resolve the Wennerström sub-plot with which the book starts.

Much is made of central characters in the praise the book has had. I did warm a bit to Mikael Blomkvist over the course of the book - though his ability to bed every attractive female was irritating. However, I found Lisbeth Salander entirely unconvincing - a middle aged man's fantasy of a hacker. While her supposed technical wizardry was a bit laughable. Felt like the author has once read an article on hacking, but had no real understanding of IT.

It is interesting that the title has been changed from the original "Men Who Hate Women". Amidst the mostly slow paced narrative there is some pretty grim violence against women - a theme reinforced by the statistics opening each chapter. Some of the violence just feels gratuitous. If this is meant to have a feminist theme it too clumsily done to be effective.

Another review said this felt like a first draft of a novel, and I tend to agree. Some promising elements but too many flaws. I can see it could make a good film. But I won't be rushing to buy the sequels.
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on 28 December 2012
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.
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