I was completely unprepared for this novel. I had seen it on bestseller lists and read magazines where the reviewers were completely wild over it. I thought the book couldn’t possibly live up to the hype. I even thought, with dread, that it may just be some sort of Twilight hysteria thing. As usual, I was completely wrong.
This novel is set in Sweden and you jump in to an immediately fast paced plot, with lots of twists and surprises. It’s a mainstream novel now, but is surprisingly deep. It touches on journalism and ethics, business and economic theories, and then builds in an in-depth family mystery with a huge cast of characters. You can trust no one, and you can’t even pretend to know what happens next.
Great plot aside, the novel introduces two very intriguing characters. Most people seem to love Lisbeth, and she is unique, sassy, resourceful and tough. But I actually found the journalist Mikael even more interesting and deep. He’s not your typical “lead” male detective: while he is an obvious ladies man, he is also a good friend. He can keep a secret, and he isn’t pushy or demanding. He sets up situations in order to see how a character responds, and is still shocked and distressed by the horrors that occur. In some ways he is almost child-like in his innocence, and yet by way of his business history he is not naïve. He appears to have money and status but needs neither to exist: he’s simple and direct without having any affectations.
Part of the genius (yes, I said genius!) is that the novel works from both of their viewpoints, and lets each of their personalities exist, rather than one character simply assessing the other and defining them to the reader.
That being said, I was surprised at some of the turns the novel took in that some main characters that are referred to heavily are never fleshed out, and some of the situations that took place (mostly involving illegal wiretapping and computer hacking) were so easily done without incident, too easily and quickly to be believable. Some of the precursors to extraordinary events unfolded with crisp writing and suspense, but the denouement seemed choppy.
My suggestion to any reader of it would be to turn the pages slowly and savor it, because you’ll be so sorry to see it end. You’ll also want to be sure to install heavy duty encryption on your computer as soon as possible, and you’ll never read another article in The Economist in the same way again.
Special thanks to Lauren Helman at Random House for the Advanced Readers Copy.