Journalist Mikael Blomkvist, co-founder and editor of Millennium Magazine, receives a guilty verdict for aggravated libel of the businessman and market speculator, Hans-Erik Wennerström. He is sentenced to prison for his attack on Wennerström's otherwise well-protected reputation. Mikael knows that he is innocent, yet he is resigned to the fact that the corrupt and admittedly more powerful Wennerström has bested him. Lisbeth Salander is a twenty four-year old misfit with significant socialization deficits. Yet she is a savant, a prodigy at least, in the ways of obtaining information even the most sophisticated private investigators are unable to access.
Henrik Vanger is the elderly former captain of the Vanger Corporation, obsessed with learning the fate of his niece, Harriet, who vanished in 1966. He suspects she was murdered. Vanger hires Mikael to research and write a Vanger a family history as cover for his real assignment, which is to learn what happened to Harriet.
Blomkvist, seeing no better option for the next year of his currently difficult life, accepts Vanger’s offer. He steps down from his editorship at Millennium; leaves his best friend and occasional lover, Erika Berger; and moves to Hedestad.
Mikael hires Lisbeth Salander to be his researcher. Soon, the two misfits are extraordinary partners. Mikael learns that all is not as it appears with the petite, tattooed, anti-social Lisbeth. For her part, Lisbeth learns that she is capable of trusting another person for the first time in her life. Over time, her feelings for Mikael deepen and she grows in new ways that are foreign, even startling to her. Together, they discover the facts of Harriet’s disappearance forty-plus years earlier and an ugly, depraved, sadistic vein in the Vanger family.
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo merits the excitement that preceded its arrival in America from Europe where it is an unprecedented publishing phenomenon. Larsson’s writing has a steady grasp on the pace and dynamics of mystery storytelling. Unfortunately for us, he died after finishing the third in this series.