I wanted to read this book as part of Orbis 2009; but the wait at the library extended 7 months and so I finally made it for Orbis 2010!
With enough good reasons, this book is pretty sought after, although my feelings about it are rather mixed. There were instances I devoured holding-my-breath-gripping, but a few pages that bored me to yawn. All in all, the book makes a great read for someone with a liking for murder/drama/thriller genres very much in the likes of Sidney Sheldon and James Patterson.
Larsson, fills the first and last 40 pages with the the protagonist Blomkovist, the financial journalist, and his quest to oust the fraudulent business tycoon. These details seem more like fillers and are not a fully developed storyline; especially the last 40 pages rant on without structure. I believe they were simply added to give Blomkovist's character shape and purpose. Although he disappoints a tad with the libel/financial journalism side of the book, he more than makes up for it with the murder mystery that brings Blomkovist with the Salander the other protagonist together into a fast-paced, yet gripping suspenseful hunt that covers most of the book. Further the author does take liberties to introduce Salander's past in a nasty sidetrack and projects her entire character with the incident of a lawyer who tries to abuse her.
Larsson generously strews sexual libidos, casual sex and intimacy problems with the characters, never really explaining any nor letting the reader understand. Some of the relationships he spins, like the one between Blomkovist and his business partner Berger is almost fantasist and confounding; but definitely entertaining!
Aside from these intricacies he seems to have missed or didn't care enough about, the murder/missing person hunt of Harriet, the heir to the Vanger clan is a fantastic piece of writing. The way he clubs Salander's photographic mind and natural abilities with Blomkovist's investigative inclinations is a real masterpiece. When Henrik Vanger the octogenarian retired business baron hires Blomkovist for the investigation he explains that his family as - "They are for the most part thieves, misers, bullies and incompetents ", you will eventually realize that is such an understatement! The reader does take a while to warm up to the Vanger family tree and follow the investigation with constant flipping of the page to match names with the family tree; the mystery is truly intriguing, that in the middle, I found myself taking notes to solve it.
Even though the book is a work of fiction, it does throw light on the Swedish ethos. Larsson, pins on the fact that women are often ill-treated or abused in Sweden. He doesn't help erase the image of Sweden being a nation of depressed and extremities. For a moment, it almost seems like every man in his book other than Blomkovist, who is under the age of 70 has abused a woman atleast once. Secondly, I had not known of the Nazi uprising that had silently risen and subsided in Sweden during world war 2; the author doesn't harp on this fact but mentions it in passing. Thirdly, the Swedish seem to be ardent coffee lovers; so much so that, there might be atleast as many mentions of Coffee, as the number of conversations in the book. Sometimes it is so addictive, that you might want to brew some yourself before settling down with the book :)
I would definitely recommend reading this book, even though it has its share of gore, depression and extremely dark angles. If you want a fast paced book for your long journey this one fits the bill. As of now, I am not sure, I want to read the second book in the trilogy, for fear of finding it to be on similar lines! But may be I will pick it up on a day, when I want some entertaining read, without wanting a feel-good or literary craving.