Six months before he died, fifty-year-old Stieg Larsson arrived at one of Sweden's oldest publishing houses with the manuscripts of two completed novels. One of them was Larsson's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, which was subsequently published in Swedish in 2005 (under the title Men Who Hate Women). Larsson, who devoted his life to investigative journalism, would never know how successful his novel would become, a bestseller first in Sweden, then in Europe, and finally in the United States.
Some critics have named the intelligent and unguessable twists in the plot as the reason for the novel's popularity. But Dick Adler, a reviewer for the Chicago Tribune, stressed Larsson's "unique and fascinating characters" for the book's success. First there is the twenty-four-year-old Lisbeth Salander, whom Adler describes as a type of "Pippi Longstocking," with a twist. Lisbeth is a young woman who knows how to hack computers, has body piercings and tattoos, and "a survival instinct that should scare anyone." Lisbeth is the star investigator of a private security firm in Stockholm. She teams up with Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist (like Larsson himself), who has been asked to solve a crime that occurred forty years ago.
It was forty years ago that sixteen-year-old Harriet Vanger disappeared. Her uncle, Henrik Vanger, a very rich industrialist, believes that Harriet was murdered, but he has not been able to prove this. Henrik thinks that someone in his family is the murderer. In the process of investigation, a forty-year history of the Vanger family is explored, exposing a complicated system of financial fraud as well as the Swedish society's link to Nazism and a general lack of morality, especially toward women.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is part of what is called the Millennium Trilogy. The second book of the trio is The Girl Who Played With Fire (2006) and the third in the series is The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest (2007). Over 20 million copies of the Millennium Trilogy have been sold worldwide. Film adaptations of all three books have been produced in Sweden and are being shown in theaters around the world. Many of the same main characters appear in all three novels.