The Spring Reading Challenge isn't even a week old and I've finished my first book:
I more or less liked this novel from the beginning, although I use the caveat "more or less" because it took me awhile to get into–maybe 50 pages. I never felt like quitting it though, and once I was "into it" I was hooked.
That doesn't mean I don't have criticisms of the book. The main plot intrigued me well enough: Mikael Bromkvist, a well-known journalist whose career is sidelined by a libel conviction, is hired by a wealthy old man named Henrik Vanger to write a history of his family and in the process, look into the mysterious disappearance of his niece Harriet in 1966. Along the way, a private investigator/computer hacker named Lisbeth Salandar (and owner of said dragon tattoo) becomes involved when Bromkvist realizes she's hacked into his computer. The two of them become an investigative team and it's them against Vanger family, most of whom are very anxious to drop the subject of Harriet's disappearance so many years ago. There is a lot of "why can't we just move on" type dialogue on this point.
My two main problems with the novel are these:
1) There are far too many members of the Vanger family to keep track of. I like genealogy when it comes to my own family, but when it's someone else's family, especially in a suspense novel, too many characters are distracting and unnecessary.
2) After the main plot is taken care of, the book goes back to the story that I found hard to get into in the first place and half-heartedly wraps it up in what essentially amounts to a series of email conversations.
I had one further problem with the novel that I won't go into detail on at the risk of spoiling anything. But I found it annoying that women seemed to be so enthralled by Mikael Bromkvist that upon meeting him once or twice they were tearing their clothes off and seducing him. As a reader, I certainly wasn't that taken with him and if you're going to make your hero a stud you had better make your reader believe it. I suppose most male detectives get a lot of action, but in this case it made the female characters, which were otherwise intelligent women, somewhat vapid and the Bromkvist character passive and weak (although he was kind of like that in general, to be honest).
What then, did I find so compelling? Well, like I said, the main plot was intriguing to me and although I found the number of characters distracting, it was not so much so that I didn't like the book. I also found the book visually appealing. I've never been to Sweden and I thought Larsson did a great job of creating a mood with his locations and descriptions. I enjoyed the time Bromkvist spent in Hedesby and for the most part, I found the mystery to be interesting and suspenseful. I will definitely read the next book in the Millenium series when it's available in July 2009.
My grade: B-