The key to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo appears almost at the end:
Berger thought that the book was the best thing Blomkvist had ever written. It was uneven stylistically, and in places the writing was actually rather poor — there had been no time for any fine polishing — but the book was animated by a fury that no reader could help but notice.
…words which could easily be applied to the novel itself. Like the protagonist Blomkvist’s book, which is mostly fact-dump appendices, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is angry, and its twin plots are intricately detailed, very much in favor of other niceties.
One of the issues Larsson is angry about is sexual violence perpetrated on women. Another thing I found problematic about this book is how Larsson deals with this theme. Like the old saw about anti-war films inadvertently glorifying war, this can be tricky territory to write about. It took a long time for Larsson to convince me that he was wasn’t just being lurid, sensational, exploitive, and playing to exactly the wrong audience; some readers might lose patience (or their lunch) waiting for the authorial viewpont to become clear.
Finally, what with the author and the male protagonist both being magazine editors, it’s tempting to suspect that Blomvkist might be an idealized version of Larsson himself. Given that, the proportion of the novel’s female characters who throw themselves at Blomvkist sexually seemed more than a little icky, not to mention a bit juvenile.
needs more demons? I realize there’s a lot of hubris involved in making value judgments about a book as popular as this, but if your taste is similar to mine, you might prefer to invest your time in a slightly more literary thriller.
On the bright side, although it’s the first of three volumes, it delivers closure on its plot and character arcs, so there’s no lingering hunger for resolution to impel me to read further.