The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson, Alfred A Knopf, 2008, 465 pp
This financial thriller, set in Sweden, has already been a bestseller in Europe. The author spent his life fighting racial and religious intolerance, exposing neofascism in Europe. He completed a trilogy of thrillers and then died in 2004. This is the first of the three novels and is written in a refreshing new style and voice while resting firmly in the Ludlum, Grisham, Baldacci thriller tradition.
The closest I've ever been to Sweden was a horrific 5 hour layover in Amsterdam airport on the way home from Paris last year, so I was initially challenged by unfamiliar names of streets, cities, persons, magazines, newspapers and other elements of modern Swedish life. But the story is exciting and smart and ultra modern, comprising a closed-room murder mystery, a dastardly financial villain, psychopathic descendants of Nazis and the girl in the title. She is in fact an extra mystery all in herself and as good as any heroine in a Neal Stephenson novel.
I could tell that it was a first novel, though that could be partly due to the translation, but except for a few clunky sections, Larsson dept me turning the pages. There is a decidedly European take on love and sex, again refreshing compared to the American psychosis of puritanism vs porn. I suspect a bit of hype in the title because I was let down by the ending as concerns the dragon tattooed girl, but presumably there will be more about her in the sequels.