I realize that I came late to this party, and everybody else in the world has read this book before I did. I'm merely chiming in to sing my own little chorus of praise for the book. I wrote the review, below, before I finished the book. Having now finished this novel and the second in the trilogy, I am not inclined to change anything in this post.
I have to confess, I had a very hard time getting into this book. The Prologue was fine. Prologues are in disfavor among the writers on writing, but I kind of like it when an author gives me a little hint about where we are headed from the outset. The first chapter, however, almost caused me to quit. Too much backstory. It didn't seem to relate to the Prologue at all. There was no girl with a tattoo. It seemed to be a lot of narrative relating to nothing. What the heck is going on?
Well, if an author can get me to wonder what is up, he's almost hooked me. I decided to give him one more chapter to show me why I should stick with him. Enter Lisbeth Salander. I'm in not just for one book. I'm going to buy the other two. How can a character as strange as Lisbeth be so fascinating? By being strange and mysterious and yet somehow vulnerable and kind as well as strong and resourceful. The main reason Lisbeth is such a wonderful protagonist is because she's someone the reader can becurious about, and care about.
The mystery about the death of Harriet Vanger seems to be little more than a pretext for revealing interesting things about the people doing the investigating. It's an interesting mystery, well told. It keeps the real story moving forward, but this reader doesn't care so much about what happened to Harriet Vanger as she cares to learn how someone as brilliant as Lisbeth got to be so damaged and was declared incompetent.
I love the fact that Larsson breaks just about every rule of fiction writing, and has still ended up with an international best selling series. That is a perfect illustration that the best writers know the rules.... and feel free to break them when the story demands it. This is not great literature, but it is a great read -- which, for my money, is way more important!