There’s bad, there’s cheesy, and then there is trashy. This book is full-on trashy.
I don’t mean that in a bad sense. It’s difficult to attain truly trashy. It goes beyond bad and beyond tawdry, through cheesy, and out the other side. It embraces its trashiness. This is a book that knows it is just outright stupid, grabs it with both hands, and hugs it until the bad pops out and leaves only the shining goodness behind. It’s the sort of trash that takes work to attain. It takes planning. It’s trashiness is awe-inspiring.
It goes something like this:
Mikael Blomkvist is this super hot financial reporter with a smoking hot but married girlfriend with whom he runs a super hot financial rag called the Millennium. He got a tip off from a friend about this crooked financier and somehow the story was turned back on him and he ended up being convicted of libel. With his career in ruins, he gets a call from yet another bigwig, Henrik Vanger, who hires him to find out the truth about what happened to his niece, Harriet, in 1966. Henrik Vanger is convinced she was horribly murdered but he has no proof, and it has eaten away at his soul for decades. He must know the truth! Along the way, Mikhael Bloomkvist is hooked up with Lisbeth Salander, a smoking hot (in a different way) Aspergery super-hacker covered in piercings and tattoos. Then they uncover a tale of — yes, you can take it from here — deceit and lies and _murder_ and, oh hell with it, yes, Nazis.
There’s sex. There’s lots of sex. Mikhael is smoking hot himself and he radiates "can sleep with any hot chick" in a 40 foot radius. And he does! God, that man sleeps with everyone. He’d sleep with the dog if there was one in the plot somewhere. There’s also rape, too, and although there’s Glorious Vengeance the rape scenes are, fair warning, pretty graphic. That alone makes it difficult to recommend to friends who may be uncomfortable with such things. On the one hand, utter ridiculousness. On the other hand, graphic rape scenes. Milage may vary.
The book has a solid three star plot but the writing kicks it up to an extra star. Stieg Larsson knew instinctively the Elmore Leonard maxim: "Do not write the boring parts." The book does plod in a few spots, especially toward the end where it is all Glorious Vengeance Upon Enemies Of All Stripes — of course, it has to be — but he very very rarely wrote the boring parts. The book is all about "Oh come ON…. /now/ what happens?" I completely understand why this book has sold a million billion copies. It is one of the most head-eatiest, brainwormiest books I have read in a long time. It is compulsively readable, even in the dumb parts.
Are the Swedish names a problem? No, not really.
Will I read the next two books? Most certainly.
Can I recommend it? It’s a fun, trashy thriller. But it has some scenes that may be upsetting. I lean toward yes with a caveat that it might not work for everyone.