The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the first novel in The Millennium Trilogy.
It was published in 2005, one year after the author Stieg Larsson’s death.
It received The Glass Key Award form Crime Writers of Scandinavia in 2006.
According to figures from June 2011, the Millennium Trilogy has together sold 60 million copies in more than 50 countries.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Plot summary
The middle-aged financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist, publisher of the leftwing magazine Millennium in Stockholm is sentenced to a stiff fine and three months in prison for libeling billionaire industrialist Hans-Erik Wennerström.
Editor-in-chief Erika Berger, Blomkvist’s friend, lover, and business partner, wants to fight on but he believes that unless he steps down as publisher and from the board, his professional disgrace will drag the magazine down with him. Just as he is at a loose end, Blomkvist is offered two richly rewarded projects by Henrik Vanger, former head of the Vanger industrial empire, who had Blomkvist thoroughly invested by Milton Security, who assigned their top dirt digger, Lisbeth Salander, to the job.
On his estate on the tiny island of Hedeby, several hours from Stockholm, Vanger persuades the reluctant and skeptical Blomkvist to take on the search for his niece, already missing 40 years, presumed dead, by promising him evidence that Wennerström committed fraud. Blomkvist’s cover for his investigation is that he’s to spend a year writing the Vanger family history. Vanger believes Harriet was murdered by a member of the extended Vanger family, dozens of whom were present in Hedeby on the day of her disappearance.
The island was isolated by an accident to a fuel tanker that blocked the only bridge, so this is a locked-room mystery, with this exception: while a murder is presumed, there is no body. Each year on his birthday the murderer torments Vanger by sending him a framed pressed flower, a habit Harriet had while alive. Blomkvist moves to a grimly uncomfortable cottage on Hedeby in the middle of a foul Swedish winter. He analyzes forty years of files Henrik Vanger has obsessively built up in his attempt to isolate his relative who murdered his niece.
Blomkvist discovers that the Vanger family includes rather a large number of wife-beaters and what at times appears to be a predominance of outright Nazis, fellow- travelers and racists. The Vanger family, all with shares in the corporation, want Blomkvist gone: they have plenty to hide and don’t want Henrik, 82 and childless, to spend his money on dirt-digging journalists.
Meanwhile, back in Stockholm, Lisbeth Salander’s legal guardian Holger Palmgren falls ill and is replaced by Nils Bjurman. We discover that Salander has been declared unfit to handle her own affairs and is considered mentally and morally subnormal by social services! Bjurman is a sadist who extorts sexual favors from Salander in return for allowing her to spend her own money on a new computer. Later he rapes her; she videotapes this event, returns with a Tazer to stun him, ties him up, then uses the videotape to blackmail him into writing good reports of her to the social services, with a view to eventually having a court declare her rehabilitated and capable. She roughly tattoos, ‘I am a sadistic pig, a pervert, and a rapist’ in large letters on his belly.
Blomkvist discovers that Salander has hacked into his computer and hires her to help him decode the meaning of baffling entries in Harriet’s diary. After some false starts they discover that what they have is a list of names of brutally murdered women corresponding with Bible verses describing forms of terminal ancient punishments. On the premise that Harriet found out about the serial killer and was killed by him before she could expose him, they investigate further.
While Salander is away following a paper trail already half a century old, Blomkvist stumbles into the torture chamber of a serial killer, who strips him naked, hangs him up, and confesses to forty years of rape and murder. He admits to raping but not murdering Harriet, whose disappearance baffles him too. As the killer starts to strangle Blomkvist, Salander, who has just independently solved the mystery of the biblical killings, bursts in and rescues him. Later they solve the Harriet mystery too.
Vanger, of course, led Blomkvist by the nose on the Wennerström matter; he has no useful evidence. It is left to Salander, the computer hacker, to give Blomkvist the goods on Wennerström, which makes Blomkvist, the convicted libeler, a media superstar and ensures the survival of his magazine Millennium.
In the process Salander ends up with Wennerström’s fortune.