The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – A Swedish Crime Novel

girl with the dragon tattoo

A Swedish crime novel sounds like an odd mix. But apparently Swedish crime novels are taking off.

Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a tale of a complicated international financial fraud and the buried evil past of a wealthy Swedish industrial family.

After reading Mission Flats, I decided to stick with another crime novel. This was a big change moving from the comfy confines of New England in Mission Flats to the stark, cold Swedish landscape in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

The central character, Mikael Blomkvist, is a crusading financial journalist who has fallen into disgrace by publishing an untrue story about a titan of industry. His eventual sidekick is a prodigy with superior computer hacking, serious trust issues and a dragon tattoo on her left shoulder blade.

In the town of Hedestad, a village three hours north of Stockholm, an 82-year-old Henrik Vanger wants to offer him a job. He wants him to solve a 40-year-old mystery: What happened to Harriet Vanger, the daughter of Vanger’s pro-Nazi brother, Richard? Harriet was just 16 when she disappeared, and despite a lengthy investigation no trace of her was found. But every year on the anniversary of her disappearance unusual flowers are delivered to Vanger.

I found the Swedish names very alien in the text. Other than Ikea, I am not used to running into the language and its places. I also found the combination of financial journalism and a murder investigation to be an odd combination. It worked, but it seemed odd to me at times.

In its original Swedish it won Sweden’s Glass Key Award in 2006 for best crime novel of the year, and won the 2008 Boeke Prize. Larsson was posthumously awarded the ITV3 Crime Thriller Award for International Author of the Year in 2008. Larsson died at the age of 50 of a massive heart attack in 2004.

The book is first part of in Larsson’s “Millennium Trilogy”. The title character with the tattoo appears in the second part The Girl Who Played with Fire. At least according to the excerpt in the back of the book.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is worth reading if you are looking for a good crime novel.


  1. I was actually disappointed by “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” It felt too long and there was a whole superfluous story line (the story about the corrupt industrialist that occupies the last 100 pages or so) that had little or no connection to the main story. My conclusion: overrated. Grade: B-. (BTW I don’t ever speak ill of another writer, and on my own blog I only review books I can recommend without reservation. Kind of a writer’s Hippocratic Oath. But since Larsson is dead, I’m bending my rule here.) What grade do you give it, Doug?

    1. It wasn’t just the length. It felt like two different books mashed together: the finance industry story and the murder mystery. It worked, but I think the financial industry piece could have been downplayed.

      I can’t speak to overrated. The Wife had just finished reading it and said it was good. That was the first I had heard of it.

      I thought it was worth reading and got me interested in reading his other two books. I’d give it a B+.

  2. I have read the story of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” but unlike Bill I did liked it. May be its due to taste of books I like. I had also recommended it to my friends. They have similar response to it.
    I will rate it a “A”

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